American Research Universities: History, Triumph, Supremacy, Challenges and Outlook


For a number of decades following World War II American universities ruled research in terms of expanding existing knowledge and creating new areas of learning. The best and brightest minds wanted to work, study and be a part of these prestigious institutions that have continuously raised the bar. However the changing factors that have initially favored the growth of these universities to prominence are now becoming hindrances to its moving forward.

Author Thomas J. Tighe said a research university has to "offer graduate education through the doctorate across the arts, sciences, and professional schools, and second, that their faculties are expected to be active contributors to new knowledge in their fields and to be successful in the highly competitive arena of federally funded research, particularly within the sciences and engineering."

Mr. Tighe also noted that these institutions embrace general education - both at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Johns Hopkins is a pioneer American research university which attracted some of the brightest minds in during the 19th century because of its focus on research and experimentation and its more liberal and open atmosphere.

Compared however to its counterparts in Europe, American research universities lack the right leadership. These universities saw great growth when the best minds in Europe flooded American shores escaping Hitler and the Nazis.

The internationalization of talent combined with the openness and willingness to accept ideas together with the commitment to create new knowledge and discoveries and with great freedom and funding paved the way for the golden age of American research universities.

After World War II, there was great development and partnership between these research universities and the government brought about extensive growth in health, science and technology.

However, The Atlantic observed that these great institutions together with their progressive research and potentials are currently under fire with the different challenges American research universities are facing.

Restrictive visa policies also poses a threat to the supremacy of these research universities as getting foreign talent and partners have become infringed.

Politicians are now inquiring into academic freedom and their attempts to control research with access to funding and regulations are diminishing the established trust between the two entities.

Faced with economic challenges, these research universities also need to consider revenue and compete for students as well as faculty.

In order to retain its stature as the leading institutions for research, university leaders, students, the faculty, political leaders and other stakeholders must strike a common ground and identify a direction where American research universities will go.

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