'New Mission for UC?'

The Times editorial "New Mission for UC?" (Aug. 29) was a thought-provoking commentary. Unfortunately, it was flawed in its basic assumptions.

The Commission for the Review of the Master Plan for Higher Education, a blue-ribbon group appointed by the governor and Legislature, spent over 2 1/2 years in review and revision of the Missions of the University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges. The commission also paid careful attention to the major contributions of California's distinguished private institutions.

Upon completion of that review, the commission reconfirmed the basic soundness of the 1960 Master Plan in the missions it assigned to California's public segments of higher education. The commission made clear that the majority of lower-division education in California should be conducted by the California Community Colleges. The Community Colleges' transfer function is at the heart of California's Master Plan and is its genius. California State University continues to take the vast majority of community college transfers, and is responsible for the education of the largest number of baccalaureate degree recipients in the state. It is truly an outstanding and distinguished university which is meeting the teaching needs of our state.

The University of California is one of the nation's premier research universities and must continue to be so. It does have, under the Master Plan, a very important obligation to undergraduate education. But its special contribution to California is its distinguished graduate and professional schools. That doesn't mean that the University of California should not and cannot improve undergraduate instruction. Indeed, all three segments have an obligation to improve their undergraduate instruction and the commission made explicit recommendations with respect to that.

The editorial raises a profound question: How will California accommodate the rapidly growing number of students in the rest of this decade and early into the 21st Century? The commission confirmed the basic wisdom of the Master Plan for Higher Education: that the University of California be expanded for pressures involving upper-division and baccalaureate level instruction; the Community Colleges would need to accommodate the rapidly growing pressure for lower-division instruction. We are pleased that the Academic Senates of the University of California, California State University, and the Community Colleges have reached an agreement on a transfer core curriculum, which is essential to reestablishing the Community Colleges role in transfer education. The recent passage of AB 1725, incorporating many of the reforms recommended by the commission, will further strengthen the Community Colleges.

We agree that the University of California can improve the quality of its undergraduate education. But it must not lose sight of its mission. It would be a mistake to try and turn it into a Pomona or a Swarthmore. The University of California is a world-renowned research university and it should be encouraged and supported to remain so if California is to remain a potent force in the nation and in the world.


San Francisco

(Shansby was the chairman of the Commission for the Review of the Master Plan for Higher Education.)

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