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The Secret of Harvard’s Success by Shailendra R. Mehta - Project Syndicate


Stashed in: Boards, Harvard, College

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In general, a higher percentage of alumni on the board is associated with a higher ranking, increased selectivity, and a larger endowment. After all, no group cares more about a university’s prestige than its alumni, who gain or lose esteem as their alma mater’s ranking rises or falls.

Indeed, alumni have the most incentive to donate generously, and to manage the university effectively. Given their intimate knowledge of the university, alumni are also the most effective leaders. Through alumni networks, board members can acquire information quickly and act upon it without delay.

So the secret to Harvard's success is its alumni network?

That's the filet mignon but there is more meat in the article.

Wow:

Today, 19 of the top 20 American universities in US News and World Report’s much-watched rankings are controlled by alumni (defined as 50% or more representation on the Board of Trustees). The only exception, the California Institute of Technology, has a board with 40% alumni representation. Of the top five, three (Harvard, Yale, and Columbia) are managed entirely by alumni, and two (Princeton and Stanford) are under 90% alumni control. Alumni run the show even at public institutions such as Purdue (90%) and Michigan (63%). On average, alumni make up 63% of the boards of the top 100 US universities, both public and private.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-secret-of-harvard-s-success-by-shailendra-r--mehta

Competition makes them better:

All great universities are nonprofit organizations, created to administer higher education, which benefits society as a whole. But US universities found a way to integrate competition’s benefits into the European concept of nonprofit, or so-called eleemosynary, corporations. The lack of profit does not diminish an alumni-dominated board’s incentive to compete for prestige by, for example, hiring distinguished faculty, accepting meritorious students, and striving for athletic or artistic achievement.

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