The leaders and the best and world class

Recently Thom Linn sent me the QS World University Rankings. Why? Because the University of Michigan is ranked as the 15th best university in the world. Turns out the QS rankings are one of three global higher ed rankings that are considered the most reliable. The other two The Times Higher Education World University Rankings also ranks UM 15th and the The Academic Ranking of World Universities (the Shanghai ranking) ranks UM 22nd.

These are not US rankings, but on the planet. Thom’s point – and ours – is that U of M is a world class asset that we have which is completely under appreciated here. Across the planet nations and regions are trying to replicate what we have – a top notch research university. Why? Because they understand – as apparently we don’t – the best research universities are essential engines of economic growth. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, you want to be the place where new knowledge is being created. And that increasingly across the planet is occurring in and around world class research universities.

Bill Gates said it best in a presentation to the National Council of State Legislatures:

…. take the two big leading industries, industries around biology and medicine, that’s one, and industries around computer technology, that’s two. The job creation and the success for those industries have been overwhelmingly in the locations where there is a great university. There’s an almost perfect correlation between the number of jobs in a region and the strength of the universities. And, that will continue, whether it’s new fields like nanotechnology, or those two fields I mentioned, on the ongoing strength that they’ll have. And so for this country, we have to have the best universities.

UM/Ann Arbor is one of those best universities in the world. It is an engine – arguably the most important engine – of future Michigan economic growth. Can you think of any other enterprise which is more important to our future growth? With annual revenues of $5.6 billion and more that 40,000 employees it is one of Michigan’s larges enterprises – public or private. And its growing.

If it were a private company we would be showering them with increased subsidies. If they were in the film making business we would write them a check – no questions asked – of more than $2.35 billion (you read it right: billion with a B) and call it a tax credit.  But apparently because they are a public university, state policy makers have spent a decade slashing support for UM/Ann Arbor. Governor Snyder’s budget proposal accelerates the cuts and adds for the first time state policy intervention in tuition setting. Exactly the wrong way to get to Michigan 3.0!

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