And while innovation depends in part on R&D (and design), education is at its core. The US, with its legendary “gold standard” system of higher education, now sits below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average for the rate of university graduation. So does Canada.4 And the trend over time is even more worrisome. University graduation rates in both Canada and the US have barely budged in recent years, while the OECD average graduation rate for universities nearly doubled from 1995 to 2007. Finland soared from 20 percent to 48 percent. Switzerland rose from 9 percent to 31 percent.5 Countries with emerging economies are also seeing the results of massive investments in higher education. In China, the number of people graduating from universities and specialized colleges has more than quadrupled since 2000.6 And the so-called BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—tripled their production of scientific articles in the decade between 1996 and 2007.7 As of 2006, Brazil, Russia, India, and China—four countries—awarded half the number of doctorates awarded in all 30 OECD countries combined.8 Perhaps, it should come as no surprise then, that the US, the dominant economic power in the world throughout our lifetime, recently lost ground in prominent rankings of the world’s top economies. In the IMD 2010 World Competitiveness Yearbook rankings, the US fell from number one in 2009 to number three in 2010 (behind Singapore and Hong Kong) 9 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the US dipped from first to second position in 2009 and dropped to fourth in 2010 (behind Switzerland, Sweden, and Singapore).10 These statistics stand in dramatic contrast with the focus being placed on education today. In the United States, with its current economic climate, some states are implementing cuts of up to 50% in funding to public universities.11 It is hard to imagine even holding steady, much less making progress, in this context. While funding for post-secondary education is either declining or not increasing, health care spending is massive and growing. Indeed, in both of our countries health care spending—not health promotion or improved health care delivery, but health care spending—has replaced education as the dominant focus of politicians and policy makers. With our universities under siege, it is easy to imagine a future in which our children may be less educated than their parents—clearly not the direction we need to be heading in the global information age. Perhaps it is our pride as nations that will reverse these directions, but they will more likely be reversed by the unceasing, articulate, and determined effort of every one of us with clear vision to influence RLI 276 4 Ahead of the Storm: Research Libraries and the Future of the Research University ( C O N T I N U E D ) SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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