Nice while it lasted

The latest listing of the world’s knowledge factories, the Times (London) University World Rankings, shows the state of California owning two (Berkeley, UCLA) of the top twenty and five (adding Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Irvine) of the top 50. Davis and Santa Cruz area also in the top 100. Riverside comes in at 117.

There are, if I’m counting correctly, 16 American public institutions outside California among the 100 world leaders. So the weakest UC campus is way, way stronger than the flagship campus of the median state university.

Alas, these rankings are mostly backwards-looking, based on citations to papers written in the past. The current reality isn’t nearly as rosy. The UC system is now at what used to be called a “Soviet average”: not as good as last year, but better than next year.

So think of this as a monument to what is being lost. And of course the loss isn’t only California’s; producing that knowledge here and transmitting it to California students is good for the state, but the knowledge itself is a worldwide resource. In the name of “small government,” we’re eating our seed corn.