After he retires as chancellor of UC Berkeley in June, Robert J. Birgeneau will head up a national effort to study and help public universities in an era of reduced tax support, new technology and changing student demographics.
Birgeneau, a physicist, is to lead the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' new initiative that will propose ways for the federal government, private industry and foundations to better aid state institutions, along with developing reforms the schools could undertake. It is being called "The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education" — named for President Lincoln, who in 1862 signed the Morrill Act granting federal lands for the establishment of public universities.
The announcement is scheduled to be made Monday at UC Berkeley at an academy symposium about higher education.
Birgeneau, who is 70 and has led UC Berkeley since 2004, said he wanted to help develop "workable plans that will help reverse the progressive disinvestment we have seen in public higher education across the country."
He said that will not occur by just urging more state funding but will need a wider range of government and private supporters. "The long-term civic and economic welfare of the country depends heavily on a robust public higher education system," Birgeneau said in an interview, adding that it is too soon to discuss specific goals or plans.