Because of their unique characteristics of large size, unusual disciplinary breadth, world-class quality, and strong public agenda, the nation’s public research universities represent the backbone of higher education in America. Yet today, caught between eroding state support caused by the shifting priorities of aging populations and the predatory behavior of well-endowed private institutions after their best faculty and students, the nation’s flagship public research universities face a period of great challenge, significant risk, and likely transformation. By engaging higher education and public policy experts both at Michigan and beyond, this graduate research seminar will examine in detail the changing nature of several major public research universities over the past several decades (including the Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and California). Through this analysis and comparison, the seminar will develop a template to serve for a broader national study of the changing nature of public research universities within the research university ecosystem. The seminar will also examine and assess the various policy options available at the federal, state, and institution level to protect the quality and capacity of the nation’s public research universities. This three credit hour seminar course is designed for students enrolled in any graduate discipline. Course requirements will include participation in class discussions, brief policy analysis papers, and a term paper analyzing a major public research university as a case study.