With Southern California leading creativity and innovation, how do the region’s universities stack up with our competitors in the U.S. and abroad?
The health of our universities can be measured by various rankings. Arguably one of the best is the Times Higher Education World University Rankings: in 2018, U.S. institutions occupied six of the top 10 spots, and 41 U.S. universities were in the top 100.
So where do Southern California universities rank? Caltech is ranked third, and there are five others in the top 100: UCLA (15), UC San Diego (31), UC Santa Barbara (53), USC (66), and UC Irvine (99).
Is having six of the top 100 universities in the world appropriate for Southern California?
I would answer: yes.
By comparison, in the top 100 universities, England has 10 but about twice the population of Southern California; and countries in Asia, with huge populations, only have a total of 11.
But let’s peel back the onion a little more. A nationwide Course Hero survey in 2017 found that the top most employable majors were architecture, physical sciences, communications and business/finance. Two of these majors have independent accrediting agencies that are the gold standards for these professions: National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB); Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA); and Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business, International (AACSB).
In architecture, the 2018 DesignIntelligence report ranks the more than 140 accredited undergraduate architecture programs in the U.S. In Southern California, there are four programs in the top 20 – USC, SCI-Arc, Cal Poly-Pomona, and Woodbury University.
The region has only one in the top 20 for undergraduate interior architecture: Woodbury University.
While there are few statistics on the quality of architecture schools on a global basis, Southern California clearly is a leader in architectural education in the U.S.
Business education is more complex to evaluate due to the large number of business schools in the U.S. and worldwide. The best gauge of business school quality is the AACSB accreditation, held by fewer than 5 percent of business schools. There are 19 business schools in Southern California, and 16 – or 84 percent – are accredited by AACSB.
Business schools also are ranked by various publications, such as the U.S. News and World Report. The publication’s 2017 list of the best graduate business schools in the U.S has only one Southern California University – UCLA (15) – in the top 20, and only seven of the region’s universities are in the top 100.
Thus, Southern California has a less-than-stellar position in some graduate business rankings, but an otherwise solid foundation as measured by AACSB accreditation. This is an important advantage, since most major corporations only recruit at AACSB-accredited schools.
As the president of a small, private university with architecture and business programs, it is reassuring that our region’s universities are well positioned to compete both nationally and internationally. But we need to be careful not to cede our leadership to schools in Europe and the up-and-coming universities of China.
Let’s remember that universities provide the professional talent and the research-based innovations that create a dynamic business environment. Importantly, we need to strengthen the university-industry partnerships that will be critical to business success if the federal government continues to reduce research and development funding.
Dr. David Steele-Figueredo is president of Woodbury University in Burbank
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