Is Berkeley really a Stanford Reject School?

Conclusion - the business blog

Dear Professor Caspari
Indeed, there is a need for skepticism as to whether the top American universities are really creating a significant amount of human capital. This applies to training in the STEM subjects as well as to the research results produced by Harvard, MIT and Princeton.

What is mostly overlooked is how small the American elite universities are. Yale University has just 8,000 young people, Princeton has 11,000 and MIT has 11,500. For comparison: the TU Munich and the LMU, which are usually listed as the best German universities in the international rankings, have 46,000 and 52,000 students respectively.

BMW, Bosch and Bayer can largely cover their need for highly qualified engineers, IT specialists and pharmacists with local university graduates. This is difficult for your competitors in the USA; Not least because of a lack of domestic skilled workers, they employ large numbers of migrants from Europe, Asia and Latin America in their laboratories.

This is particularly noticeable in Silicon Valley, where most of the specialists in R&D come from abroad. Around half of the founders and top managers of the Californian IT companies are immigrants, such as Sergey Brin (Google), Andy Grove (Intel) or Elon Musk (Tesla). The migrants received their education largely in their home countries, so that the US can import a large part of the human capital that secures America's top position in IT free of charge.

In addition, the Ivy League institutes provide only a tiny fraction of the research results that are needed in business and society. In most areas, R&D has long been far too expensive to be carried out at comparatively small universities.

The so-called curiosity research (what holds the world together at its core) have largely been taken over by state research centers. NASA - and not MIT or Stanford University - recently sent the “Perseverance” rover to Mars. Large research institutes such as Cern in Switzerland or the GSI in Darmstadt are exploring the world of atoms and elementary particles.

Artificial intelligence is widely regarded as the most important future technology. Here, not only applied research, but also basic research are almost exclusively the domain of IT companies such as Google and Amazon in the USA and Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent in China. These corporations not only have infinitely more money than even the richest elite universities. They also have tons of data from their business activities that can be used to train AI algorithms.

At the moment, however, the benefits that science creates for mankind are unlikely to be as great as with the vaccines against Covid-19, which are already in use or which will soon be on the market. A completely new method is used here, namely the transport of the vaccine into the cells by means of mRNA. As is well known, one of the pioneers of these fundamentally new pharmaceuticals is the Mainz-based company Biontech, founded by two Turkish-born scientists and financed by private investors as well as the EU and the federal government.

What contribution have Harvard, Yale and Princeton made to combating the coronavirus pandemic? Or Cambridge and Oxford?