Julie Kang, a psychology graduate student at UC Riverside, stated the case more baldly than most: “Without graduate students, (the university) quite honestly would come to a screeching halt.”

A troupe of graduate division deans and graduate students from each of UC’s 10 campuses went to Sacramento in May to remind legislators of graduate education’s important and historic role in research and the economic well-being of the state. The individual students, among them Berkeley Ph.D. candidates Holly Brown (of Earth and Planetary Science) and Gabriel Lopez (of Bioengineering), encapsulated their own projects (hers in early earthquake warning for California, his in synthetic biology methods that might produce new drugs, fuels, or materials). As a group, they underlined the UC system’s major role in American graduate education. Among their facts:

  • As of 2009, seven percent of the nation’s graduate students were in graduate school at UC campuses, winning 20 to 30 percent of the most competitive and prestigious fellowships in science, art, and the humanities.
  • One fourth of all UC and California State University faculty received their Ph.D.’s from a UC graduate program. California led the nation, awarding 5,923 doctorates in 2007-08, nearly two thirds from UC. The Berkeley campus produced more Ph.D.’s than any other American university.
  • But surveys show that the amount, type, and duration of financial support available for graduate students, as well as the availability of affordable housing and the high cost of living at many campuses, are factors that can and do lead top graduate students away from California, and the quality of grad students affects faculty recruitment and retention.
  • Additional funding will be required to attract the highest quality graduate students to UC doctoral programs.

Steven Beckwith, UC vice president for research, emphasizes the graduate student contribution: “They spark ideas, make discoveries, enrich the arts, and work to solve some of society’s most pressing problems.” UC President Mark Yudof bolsters the point: “They go in and they actually do the research. It wouldn’t happen without them.”