The University of California Berkeley
The University of California Berkeley - Graduate (MS/PhD) Ratings|
|Total Grad Surveys||19|
|Avg years at University||1.8|
|Research Quality||B+ (8.1)|
|Research Availability||A- (8.5)|
|Research Funding||B+ (7.4)|
|Graduate Politics||B+ (7.3)|
|Errand Runners||B+ (7.5)|
|Degree Completion||B- (6.1)|
|Alternative pay [ta/gsi]||B (7.0)|
|Sufficient Pay||B- (5.9)|
|Education Quality||C+ (5.1)|
|Faculty Accessibility||C+ (5.8)|
|Useful Research||C+ (5.5)|
|"Individual" treatment||B- (6.1)|
|Campus Beauty||B+ (7.5)|
|Campus Maintenance||C+ (5.8)|
|University Resource/spending||C+ (5.5)|
|Surrounding City||A- (8.4)|
|Social Life/Environment||B- (6.3)|
The graduate health insurance is awful. You have to pay 20% of everything up to some small minimum, then you have to pay 100%. Pray you don't get hurt or terribly ill.
The pressure to succeed is tremendous and the facilities the university has are below sub-standard. The only facility that works is the NMR lab. Between 88 professors, there is one working instrument of any kind so you have to go borrow someone else's IR or UV, etc. The university is riding on its reputation and uses that as an excuse to not keep up any facilities and to treat their students like crap, because they know that others are willing to take their place due to reputation. Sadly, reputation is all that is left. The actual quality of education and the facilities/equipment are awful. Of all the classes I took, only ONE was good. The rest were taught by professors who only cared about research and neglected their teaching entirely. The buildings of the campus are turning into slums and falling apart. You are not paid equally each month, and sometimes they forget to pay you all together (no joke). I personally know three people not including myself that did not get paid anywhere from 1-5 months. The administrative staff is beyond unhelpful and the university graduate department seems to delight in causing students strife. The campus police force is criminally corrupt. I was personally extorted by a police officer who perjured himself, and have talked to a number of other graduate students who have had similar issues with campus police and parking enforcement. The graduate students are all depressed. Thank goodness they are all nice to one another. The library has half their books shipped off to a storage facility, so you have to wait to check things out. The librarian is nice and helpful, but is overworked and underfunded.Graduate school here was easily the worst years of my life, made so by the school. If I had it to do over again, I would choose a different school and I guarantee I would be much happier. Had I known these things coming in, I would have never made the decision to go here. UC-Berkeley sucks.
In the 1960?s, Berkeley was one of the best funded universities across the globe. Tuition was free, and it attracted the best faculty in the world. Starting in the 1970?s, state funding for public higher education steadily eroded. California?s voters chose to provide welfare to corporations (Proposition 13) over support for higher education. The decline in funding has forced UC Berkeley to turn itself into a research center for hire. Lucrative research contracts pay professors? salaries and help maintain the libraries. Teaching does not bring in money like research, so it is all but neglected. Students are forced to teach themselves. UC Berkeley cannot afford to have good teaching.
To exacerbate matters, budget cuts in Fall 2009 forced the administration to shut the main library one day per week. Course offerings were reduced; class sizes increased; and faculty and staff were forced to take unpaid furlough. Since then, a parents group has funded the re-opening of the library, but the financial situation has not improved.
If you can afford to go to a private school, then you will probably get a much better education there. But if you insist on attending UC Berkeley, you will be better off knowing the following: life at Berkeley is a matter of survival. Professors know that their tenure guarantees them lifelong employment. Their next increase in salary depends mainly on their research as measured by the number of academic publications that they churn out. As a result, research is their focus, and teaching is neglected. Students waste their time in classes because professors do not want to teach them. They are poorly taught and painful to endure.
Professors play tricks to minimize their teaching workload. In the Mechanical Engineering Department, one professor decided that he did not want to answer questions about homework during his office hours, so when students stopped by, he later publicly humiliated them in class. That set the tone for the semester. After the midterm exam, he called his students his ?worst ever?. At the end of the semester, this same professor decided that he did not want to correct final exams, so he signaled his intention to fail half the class, causing a mass exodus to drop the course. Another professor shirked his teaching responsibilities by giving everybody A?s. He did not correct any homework, projects, or reports. He never even returned one assignment. Students who came to Berkeley to be taught by experts at the top of their fields were shortchanged. The truth is: professors cannot be bothered to do their jobs. They care only about their research, and not one bit about their students who distract them from their research contracts.
Graduate students endure the worst abuse at UC Berkeley. Often in the sciences and in engineering, students are admitted with promises of financial support, but when they arrive, the support disappears. This bait and switch is only too common. Then you are stuck. You are on your own without funding, and you must wait a year to transfer to another university. They have got you! Unfortunately, this happens regularly. You will need several additional semesters or even years to complete your degree because you will be working as an indentured servant (graduate student instructor) in order to support yourself.
Doctoral students also have to deal with the qualifying exams, which would be okay if the faculty would act like adults. They really do not want to give up a half day of their time to spend on your qualifying exam, so they play games to get out of it. For example, they may not give you an appointment to discuss the qualifying exam. Alternately, they may indicate their intention to sacrifice you during the exam if you ask them to be on your qualifying exam committee. Even if a professor agrees to serve on your committee, there is no guarantee that the faculty member will actually show up despite months advance notice and numerous reminders in person and by email. Professors at UC Berkeley are simply not penalized for their unprofessional behavior.
If you are a graduate student who already has a Masters Degree and you want to do a PhD at UC Berkeley, then you are sadly mistaken if you think that you will finish up in a few years. Depending on the department, UC Berkeley may not even recognize your Masters Degree. Figure this out before you matriculate! UC Berkeley does not advertise its academic arrogance in any brochure or online. You may be permitted to transfer in one or two classes from elsewhere, but it takes 7 or 8 classes for a Masters, so transferring midstream to UC Berkeley adds one or two more years to your PhD. Students with a Masters who want a PhD should just finish the PhD elsewhere. If you really want to come to Berkeley, then do a postdoc. But really, you?ll be better off elsewhere.
UC Berkeley does not have a big enough budget to keep its main library open, much less retain its best professors. The top talent receives offers to go teach elsewhere such as Stanford., who can afford to pay the best people a top salary. Those professors left at UC Berkeley are ?well?not the best. And they know it. And they are not happy.
?US News and World Report? consistently ranks UC Berkeley among the top universities, yet it does not include teaching as a criterion. Rather, the opinion of other university presidents, provosts, and deans are the most heavily weighted factor. In other words, it is a popularity contest. This ranking system allows UC Berkeley to hide its poor teaching and perpetuate the high rankings.
The UC Berkeley Administration goes to great lengths to hide how poor the teaching is. Teaching evaluation results are withheld from students in order to suppress how bad the teaching is. This practice clearly violates the California Public Records Act, which authorizes public access to them, but the university is largely immune from lawsuits. Knowing this, UC abuses its legal right to police itself.
How is it possible that the teaching is so bad? Only competent students are admitted, and they manage to survive. It may, however, require many years longer than anticipated to graduate. Often students get flushed away due to the poor teaching and are never heard from again. Students are no match for faculty apathy, infighting, and numerous mistakes on exams. Whenever issues arise, the student?s career will always be sacrificed so that the faculty members do not have to confront one another. Due to the tenure system, professors cannot be fired. Since they are stuck with each other for life, incompetence flourishes because they would rather not challenge each other. Students pay the price for this system. Undergraduates have no idea how bad the teaching is at UC Berkeley relative to other institutions because they lack a reference for comparison. The graduate students, on the other hand, have figured it out, and they are treated as disposable servants.
In summary, at UC Berkeley one can only expect a substandard education. You get what you pay for. The tuition would be as expensive as any private university if frustration were a currency. Don?t be fooled by the nice weather and pretty campus ? in your fight for survival, you won?t spend that much time enjoying it. If you can afford to attend college elsewhere, you will likely get a much better education there. Studying at UC Berkeley may just be the biggest that you ever make.