UC System vs CSU system


Although the UC system is considered the pinnacle of California's post-secondary education system, some feel the practical education available to undergraduates is often not as complete as that found at [WWW]California State Universities, or even many community colleges.

These individuals believe there are a number of reasons for this, but assert that the basic reason is that the UC system focuses very strongly on research and graduate education. Then again, maybe the fact that the UCs emphasize research and graduate education is a strength rather than a weakness — read below for pros and cons.

In the UCs, there are a number of opportunities for Student Influence.


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I originally created this page out of frustration with the way I felt many undergrads were being shortchanged in favor of research and other priorities (disclosure: when I wrote this, I was NOT an undergrad, although I had been in the past, and I was a TA working with undergrads in the past as well). I think however, that at this point a more balanced page would be more helpful (along with a name change). Any objections before I re-write? — EricKlein

I've noticed that few davis students actually go onto to graduate school so for the majority of students it's not really a prep for grad school. Most students attend UCs instead of CSUs because they have better reputations. —BryanBell

Do you have proof/statistics/studies that prove the claims made on this page?ss

I have generally heard the most effective use (financially and educationally) of California's higher education is 2 years at a JC, Bachelors from a State, and Masters/PhD from a UC. Davis is a great research university, but with the publishing requirements, a fair portion of the faculty are more concerned about their research, and less about teaching, I have have several professors who were obviously brilliant, but lousy teachers. -RogerClark

2005-09-23 22:39:54   Hm, interesting to see this discussion, as a professor. The problem, from our end, is class size. Honestly. It's incredibly hard to teach a large class unless it's solely fact-based. No matter how good a teacher you wish you were, and how hard you prepare, you know you are losing the top 5% and the bottom 20% of students. You want to know them, individualize the learning a bit, and you end up just trying to figure out how to get papers back without wasting class time. You end up relying on memorization/regurgitation way more than you want to, because other teaching techniques are so difficult to implement with lots of students. Then UC students are inculcated into the lecture system such that other methods can really frustrate them. On top of all that, research is indeed what gets you promoted, so you can't skimp on that either. Not offering excuses for bad teaching, here, just want you to know some of our obstacles. —BethFreeman

2005-12-15 15:10:25   I've missed something - is UC supposed to be a high-end vocational school? I thought UC was supposed to provide education, not job training. A lot of the money for UC is provided by the public, and the public should get something in return. Traditionally, the argument has been that the public gets in return a body of citizens able to think more clearly and responsibly, especially about public issues. This is not to say that UC is doing well at providing education even in the sense I have described. But if you are looking only for job skills which will benefit no one but you and your future employer, then it is unrealistic to want the state (or, in the case of "private" universities - generous donors) to pay for so much of it. —AlexanderWoo

2005-12-16 04:17:16   I, for one, am disgusted by the number of courses that I have taken as an undergrad in which the instructor had such a thick foreign accent (or equivalently bad vocabulary) that his/her words became gnarled to the point of unintelligibility. I wouldn't say that these instructors have comprised the majority of the instructors in all the courses I've taken, but they have comprised the majority in some of the most vitally important courses of my education, which is a complete shame.

The UC's intensive research focus aside, they should hire instructors that have a full mastery of the English language, or, permit only people that have mastery of those skills to teach, so long as they have some minimum qualification of understanding the material.

That is, if the goal is education (it should be).

Regarding the UC's focus more on research rather than undergrad care, I have no problem with that, so long as the university clearly sends that message to applicants (they didn't, to me). —JohnNapier

2005-12-16 15:18:00   I had one guy tell us that he wasn't being paid enough to teach us and didn't want to be there. He said we should drop his class and sign up for the other guy's section because he gets paid more and should have to deal with us instead of him. —MarieHuynh

2007-05-03 20:00:49   I can't really respond to the above, but I can fill in things from my own perspective.

The University of California (UC) system is designed to be research oriented; the California State University (CSU) is designed to put teaching before research. Does that mean you'll get a better education at a CSU? Maybe, maybe not. In part, it depends on what you're looking for, but also, experiences will vary wildly from school to school, from department to department, and from professor to professor. Does it matter to you whether your professors are top in their field, actively doing research and staying current? Then perhaps the UC is a better place for you — but plenty of CSU professors are good researchers, too. Then again, it might be a mistake to think that CSU professors have tons of time to devote to students — they have very heavy teaching loads, and are expected to do some research, regardless. Bottom line: the truth is that most faculty become professors because they want to research — grad school is a long, expensive haul for those who want to teach. Listen to the recommendations of your friends, and choose accordingly. (That is, choose the professors who obviously care about their teaching — if you choose classes only because they are easy or because the schedule is convenient, then you get no sympathy from me).

Personally, I bucked the norm and went to grad school so that I could teach, because I wanted to teach and couldn't see myself teaching high school. By the time that the ink was dry, I found that I loved both teaching and research. But it can be hard to balance both. Sometimes I think that students don't have a complete understanding of all the demands on a professor's time. (Sometimes professors don't have a complete understanding of all the demands on a student's time, either, but that's a story for the students to tell). So, here's a partial list:

Being a professor is a very fulfilling job. In fact, it feels funny to call it a "job," because it ends up permeating every aspect of your life. But one basically has to accept that there is an infinite amount of work to do and no one to set any boundaries but oneself. Professors work insane numbers of hours with the benefits being that they can choose those hours and what they work on (for the most part), not to mention the excitement of seeing young minds think and explore. So, yes, some professors are neglectful of undergraduates, some of them are at UC Davis, and that's a problem. However, also understand that professors have a lot of obligations to fulfill, and occasionally, we try to have lives, too.


2010-04-22 12:08:36   I was a community college student, from my experience the majority Professors Graduate from UC have more difficult skills in teaching vs. Professors Graduate from CSU plain and simple. I learn well instructors from CSU! UC may be good with research, but if CSU allow to do research/medicine, give out more doctorate, I see CSU probably come out superior. —news1001

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