Corporation talks long-term strategies

Yale Corporation fellows traveled to Cambridge University in the United Kingdom this weekend for their first meeting of the academic year to discuss ways Yale can learn from its institutional peer across the ocean.

During the visit abroad, the Corporation, the University’s highest decision-making body discussed some more short-term Yale issues, such as Yale’s upcoming capital campaign and the possibility of increased funding for the Yale School of Medicine. Corporation fellows also examined the daily workings of Cambridge University to find ways Yale might learn from Cambridge’s approach to scientific research and residential life for students.

“We spent more than half the time there trying to learn about Cambridge,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “It’s eye-opening how radically great universities can differ.”

The University is particularly interested in Cambridge’s promotion of industrial development on its campus, Levin said. Cambridge has succeeded in attracting Microsoft and other prominent to conduct research on campus and Yale is looking at ways to enact similar measures, he said. Levin said he hopes that enhancing Yale’s scientific resources will promote New Haven’s economic development.

“Behind Stanford and MIT, we’re at the top of the pack in terms of resources,” Levin said. “For one example, there are a lot of Yale-created drugs in the pipelines for FDA approval that could be potentially sold commercially as products.”

Cambridge’s status as “the Silicon Valley of Europe” is partly due to the United Kingdom’s less stringent intellectual property laws, which Levin said have created a more permissive atmosphere for on-campus research.

The Corporation also reviewed the University’s current financial status, focusing on Yale’s capital campaign, which is set to begin sometime in 2006. The University’s fundraising campaign is in its silent phase and is posting “very good results,” but specific figures will not be released until the campaign’s public opening, Levin said. The funds raised from the campaign will go toward areas such as on-campus renovations, study abroad programs and the construction of new facilities on Science Hill.

The Corporation also discussed the possibility of increased funding for the Yale School of Medicine, which School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern said was necessary to strengthen the school’s resources.

“We want to establish centers of excellence for many diseases and recruit experts for these specific diseases,” Alpern said. “Also, we have outstanding doctors, but we don’t have enough doctors for all the patients that want to be cared for by us.”

In addition to the discussions concerning finance, Levin said the Corporation also reviewed the differences between the two universities’ residential colleges — at Cambridge, both undergraduate and graduate students apply directly to one of the 31 residential colleges for admission, while at Yale students are placed randomly into one of 12 colleges. The Corporation is not currently considering any changes to Yale’s residential college system, but it may examine the possibility of assigning a limited number of graduate students to residential colleges in the future, Levin said.

The Corporation often travels to a peer institution for its first meeting of the year. In recent years, it has traveled to Stanford University and the University of Virginia. Levin said this year’s location was chosen in part because Cambridge’s vice-chancellor, Alison Richard, served as Yale’s provost from 1994 to 2003.

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