Chicago, Paris-8, and the magnitude of university wealth

I was a little bit stunned to realize yesterday that my working conditions — as a lowly graduate student at the University of Chicago — are in a sense markedly better than those of a typical French public university professor. You see, the University of Chicago owns a building in Paris where they give us, the visiting grad students, office space. But if you are a Maître de Conférences (somewhat like an associate professor) at, say, the University of Paris-8 (Saint-Denis), you get no work space whatsoever, aside from a cramped class preparation lounge where you can leave your coat while you teach your class. University professors in Saint-Denis, unless they are also administrators, must either find office space elsewhere or work at home.

Now I could tell you all sorts of other things about how my home university, a very rich private American university, is different from the French public universities I’ve encountered. But I’ve looked up some figures and, frankly, the sheer quantitative difference between Paris-8 and UChicago is so enormous that it almost speaks for itself. Behold:

Paris-8 UChicago Ratio
Students 21,487 15,149 1.4 : 1
Faculty 1,075 2,211 1 : 2.1
Staff 601 ~12,000 1 : 20
# Buildings 11 more than 190 1 : 17
Annual Budget €119.3 million $2.8 billion 1 : 16.8
Endowment None $4-5 billion

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How rich is Yale?

A really interesting section here from Gordon Lafer’s 2003 piece, “Land and labor in the post-industrial university town: remaking social geography” (which Zach suggested to me):

The common sense definition of “non-profit” is an organization whose income just barely covers its expenses. The designation of universities as non-profit institutions encourages one to think of them as organizations that are modest by nature. Even a school like Yale, which is obviously well endowed, is often imagined to be operating close to the margin, devoting whatever income it generates to the provision of high-quality education and leaving just a small cushion between the university’s costs and its revenues. The truth is that Yale pursues an active policy of accumulating surplus wealth, and that by 1996, its annual earnings exceeded its operating costs by nearly $1 billion.

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Economic impact of economic crisis on universities

I did a bit of research yesterday about the national effects of the economic crisis on the university system. A few interesting overviews are available: Timothy Burke predicts a permanent end to continuing university growth; Christopher Newfield comments on the debilitating effects of student debt; P. T. Zeleza has a big overview of the situation. But I thought I’d share the links to some of the relevant news, to save others the effort of looking it all up.

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