Creating a Great Public University: The History and Influence of Shared Governance at the University of California by John Aubrey Douglass, CSHE 4. 2023 (October 2023)


Since establishing its first campus in 1868the University of California (UC), California’s landgrant universitydeveloped into the nation’s first multicampus systemin the United Statesand is today widely recognized as the world’s premier network of public research universities. This short essay provides a historical brief on the role that shared governance, and specifically the role of the Academic Senate, played in creating an academic culture of excellence and high achievementin pursuing itstripartite mission of teaching and learning, research and knowledge production, and public service. A key component in understanding the critical role of the Senate in UC’s evolution from a single campus in Berkeley to now a tencampus system is the university’s unusual designation as a public trust in the state constitution that, beginning in 1879, protected the university at critical times from external political pressures and allowed the university to develop ainternal academic culture guided by the Academic Senate. By the 1920s, the emergence of California’s unique and innovative public system of higher education, with UC as the sole public provider of doctoral degrees and state funded research, also helps explain the ability of the UC system to maintain its mission and formulate what is termed a "One University" model. The Academic Senate has created coherency and shared values within UC, and a culture and expectation for faculty performance that is unique among universities around the world. This essay also offers a brief reflection on the Academic Senate’s past influence, its current status, and prospective role. The overall intent is to provide context forthe current academic community and higher education scholars regarding the past and future role of faculty in university governance and management, and what distinguishes UC in the pantheon of major research universities

Keywords: University of California, Shared Governance, Institutional Autonomy, University Management

Publication date: 
October 3, 2023
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)

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