On Mission statements

- 3 mins

Institutions of higher education work in different ways around the world, with varying organizational structures and institutional goals. This post tries to ask the question What do educational institutions want to accomplish in terms of their goals?, and to compare two institutions from different coutries on the basis of their mission statements.

The objectives of an institution are usually summarized in the form of a mission statement which is defined as follows 1:

A mission statement defines what an organization is, why it exists, its reason for being.

Since the purpose of this blog is to explore the effective usage of language to communicate ideas, I wanted to compare the language used in defining the mission statements of two different research universities.

NIG

University: National Institute of Genetics

Location: Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture

Country: Japan

Background

NIG is a small, specialized research institution which offers graduate degrees in areas of life sciences related genetics. Hosting the DNA Databank of Japan, it is famous for its contributions to genetics and genomics from 1949.

NIG’s mission statement can be found here

Mission statement(s)

  • Cutting-edge research in genetics
  • Intellectual infrastructure for life sciences
  • Research collaboration
  • International collaboration
  • Education for Graduate students

UC Berkeley

University: University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, California

Country: United States of America

Background

The University of California at Berkeley, considered to be the number 1 public school in the US, is an immense insitution with a notable history of contributions to science as well as social causes, most notably the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. With a focus on undergraduate education, Berkeley has an equal commitment to education as well as research.

Mission statement

Since each college system in UCB has a mission statement, I decided to compare the mission statement of the University of California sytem as a whole. I found the mission statement here, which in short is summarized as

The University’s fundamental missions are teaching, research and public service.

Discussion

The things to keep in mind when comparing the statements from the two institutions is that while NIG is a small research focussed institution, UCB is one of the biggest educational and research institutions in the US. However, both are government-funded bodies, situated in the most developed coutries of the world today.

The differences between these institutions stand out by simply examining the mission statements. When it comes to education, NIG specifies a focus on education of graduate students while UCB simply uses the word teaching, which reflects its commitment to education in general. This is reflected in its renowned part-time education programs.

While NIG specifies its commitment to genetics research, UCB mentions research as one of its three-fold aims. Hence research is definitely an important focus of both institutions, but NIG goes one step ahead and indicates its specific research focus.

Finally, the last part of the UCB mission statement spells out an explicit commitment to public service, which in view of the historical events at Berkeley is definitely an interesting central focus of the institution. NIG is more specific in its other commitments, including building infrastructure for the life sciences, and research and international collaboration. This emphasis sets it apart from UCB, in its commitment to quality interdisciplinary research, as compared to public service.

The differences between these institutions is clearly dilineated in their mission statements. This is a good starting point to start thinking about such educational and research institutions in general; what are their goals and how do they achieve them? How are institutions modifying or adapting their mission statements to remain current?

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