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What Makes a University Great? Americans Say Renowned Faculty, Top-Rank Research Center are Most Important, According to New Survey from IP Advocate

Diverse Student Body is Third, Athletics a Distant Fourth; Findings Underscore Nation's Commitment to Exploration and Innovation

Atlanta, Georgia (PRWEB) Aug. 11, 2009 - As a new class of eager high school seniors begins the college admissions process, with the effects of the shaky economy still looming as a big question mark, a new study reveals what Americans consider to be the defining characteristics of a great university.

According to a substantial majority, "renowned faculty" and a "top-rank research center" are what make a university great.

That's the principal finding of a new nationwide survey conducted July 21-23 by IP Advocate (, a non-profit organization dedicated to academic researchers' rights. In association with Chicago market researcher Synovate, IP Advocate asked 1,000 Americans to rank the importance of five factors in what makes for a great university: "large endowment," "quality athletic program," "top-rank research center," "diverse student body" and "renowned faculty."

More than one-third of Americans (35 percent) chose renowned faculty as the most important criteria. Another one-third (34 percent) of the population said a top-rank research center is what makes a university great.

In third place, at 19 percent, is a diverse student body. Seven percent of respondents chose a quality athletic program, and 5 percent said large endowment.

"Americans' high regard for faculty and research reveals the value we place on exploration and innovation at the university level," said Dr. Renee Kaswan, founder of IP Advocate, former research professor at the University of Georgia and inventor of the billion-dollar drug Restasis®. "Imagine how invigorated our country's pursuit of innovation would be if our news reports covered research discoveries as enthusiastically as they do college football, or if faculty appointments got as much play as Wall Street CEOs. The public has a huge stake in how our universities function - many are supported at least in part by our tax dollars, and we all benefit from a quality educational system."    

Renowned faculty and top-ranked research center were consistently the two top choices across nearly every demographic breakdown, although they alternated between first and second position like a see-saw; for example, the younger set ranked research first while the older set favored faculty.

The only exception in the top two was in the racial breakdown: for non-white respondents, a diverse student body was the second most popular choice for the leading position; research center was at the top.

Among the survey's major findings:

  • Thirty-one percent of non-white respondents ranked diverse student body first, while 16 percent of white respondents agreed.

  • People with at least some college or an undergraduate degree chose renowned faculty as the most important factor for a great university - 39 percent of that group chose faculty, while 31 percent chose top-rank research center. Conversely, post-grads were more likely to rank research as most important - 37 percent of post-grads chose top-rank research center, while 34 percent said renowned faculty.    

  • Those in the South chose research more often than their counterparts around the country: 38 percent said research is most important, compared with 31 percent of those in the Northeast, 32 percent of those in the Midwest and 32 percent of those in the West.

  • Females were more likely than males to rank renowned faculty as most important (38 percent compared with 32.5 percent, respectively).

  • Respondents with higher incomes were more likely than those in the lower brackets to rank renowned faculty as most important (39 percent of $50k-$75k and 40 percent of $75+, compared with 27 percent of under $25k and 33 percent of $25k-50k).

  • Respondents in the lower income categories were more likely than their higher-earning counterparts to value a diverse student body - roughly one-fourth of those who earn under $25k and of those who earn $25k-$50k ranked diversity as most important, compared with 13 percent of those earning $50k-$75k, and 15 percent of those earning $75k+.

  • Men were three times more likely than women to rank athletic program first, though it was still men's fourth choice overall (10 percent of men ranked athletics at the top, compared with 3 percent of women).

The IP Advocate/Synovate survey has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent. For a full copy of the survey results and a graphic presentation of top-line data, email info at edgecommunicationsinc dot com.

About IP Advocate
IP Advocate ( is a non-profit organization that educates and empowers faculty researchers on patent rights and the process of commercialization - helping inventors protect their rights during the complex process of getting their invention from the lab to the people who need it. IP Advocate is a rich resource of information and best practices related to the commercialization of intellectual property. The organization was founded by Dr. Renee Kaswan, inventor of the billion-dollar drug Restasis® and a former research professor at the University of Georgia; and is led by executive director Rhaz Zeisler, a recognized international interactive media brand strategist, and former Walt Disney producer and IBM creative executive. IP Advocate is a 501(c)(3) organization, based in Atlanta.


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