http://bathknightblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/telegraph-logo.jpgBy Fraser Nelson. Britain and the US have chosen two very different models for funding universities – and it’s clear which is winning. If a bunch of sadistic academics were to construct a mass experiment into mankind’s ability to resist temptation, it would look a lot like Stanford University. First, plonk a campus in one of the world’s most agreeable climates and make it look more like a spa hotel than a place of study. Next, have students dress as if they have stepped off the beach, and make sure one lies just half an hour away. Then hang hammocks between trees on the way to lecture theatres to ensnare the weak-willed. Finally, funnel 1,800 teenagers a year into this den of distraction – and see if they can do any work.
Oddly, they do. Work of sufficient quality to make Stanford one of the best universities on the planet. While famous for computing (and begetting Silicon Valley), most of its departments are now ranked amongst the world’s top five. Nor is it full of geeks: its athletic record is such that, if Stanford were a country, it would have come sixth in the Olympics – ahead of Germany and Australia. Rather than being a Californian freak, it is just the latest example of an extraordinary trend: the way that American universities are making dazzling progress while most British ones are in a state of crisis. Read more...