Research Universities and the Future of America

NAS Report on How to Maintain America's World-Class Research Universities

bridges vol. 34, July 2012 / Feature Articles

Cover: Research Universities and the Future of America America is driven by innovation – advances in ideas, products, and processes that create new industries and jobs, contribute to the country's health and security, and support a high standard of living. In the past half century, innovation itself has been increasingly driven by educated people and the knowledge they produce. The primary US source of new knowledge and of graduates with advanced skills continues to be its excellent research universities.

By most measures, US research universities still maintain that status, with 35 to 40 consistently ranking among the top 50 universities globally. However, US research universities are facing critical challenges – magnified by the financial crisis – that threaten to erode the quality of research and education these institutions can provide. Such challenges range from unstable revenue streams and antiquated policies and practices to increasing competition from universities abroad. Thus, it appears essential to reaffirm and revitalize the unique partnership that has long existed among research universities, the federal government, the states, and philanthropy, and to strengthen its links with business and industry.

Recognizing that US research universities are at risk, the US Congress asked the National Academies to assess the competitive position of America's research universities, both public and private, and to respond to the following question:

What are the top 10 actions that Congress, the federal government, state governments, research universities, and others can take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century?

In response, the National Research Council convened a committee of individuals who are leaders in academia, industry, government, and national laboratories. The committee's report, Research Universities and the Future of America, explains its findings and the 10 actions it recommends.

This article summarizes the findings and recommendations of that report, as they were outlined in the report's executive summary.


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