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Hollinger: “Higher Education as a Public Good”

NOV . 09 2009

Peking University, November 7th, 2009: The Berkeley panel began with a brief introduction by the chair, F. Scott Biddy, on the history of universities through time. “Universities persist we adapt to changing times and survive through crisis, continuing to fulfill our missions as universities,” said Biddy, as he went on sharing how Berkeley came to be at the state which it is at today. “This is a critical time for Chinese higher education,” commented Biddy, “we would like to share our experience about the character of the higher education in California.”


After the brief introduction, the floor was opened to Professor David A. Hollinger, who shared his view on “Higher Education as a Public Good.” Hollinger’s speech was organized and straightforward, he explained “The California Idea” which is the combination of wide public access and elite quality. The state of California has always been the most supportive of higher education compared to the other states in the USA. This is because they believed that the point of higher education as a “public good’ was to ensure that as many citizens as possible would be educated and ready and able to play productive roles in society. Hollinger shared some numbers which were quite impressive. In 1942, when only 12% of the nation had entered the gates of a college or university, 24% of California’s residents had attended college for some amount of time. This proved even more how much the state of California was encouraging higher education for the public and the amount of finical support the higher education institutions from the state of California were receiving.


During his presentation, Hollinger also touched the topic of the compatibility between private and public schools. Contrary to public beliefs, the UC’s although being public institutions are actually highly competitive to private institutes such as Harvard or Stanford. The National Research Council’s evaluation in 1995, ranked 36 doctorial programs of the nation. Of those, UC Berkeley had 24 programs ranked in the nation’s top five, followed by Harvard with 19 and Stanford and MIT tied with 15 programs in the top five. The number of Berkeley’s top rated programs was not the only impressive statistic, the range of the top ranked programs were also very remarkable. Berkeley has strong engineering as well as humanities and social science programs, providing the public with well rounded and competitive programs in all fields of learning.


During this time of economic crisis when budgets over all areas are receiving significant cuts, the higher education governmental funds have also been receding. Hollinger and his colleagues hope to find ways where more private capital can be joined with tax-payer funding to develop different financial support sources to continue to maintain Berkeley’s public mission.


This year, Berkeley was the only public University to hold a panel in the 2009 Beijing Forum. The two other Universities that held a panel were Harvard and Stanford respectively.