At this morning’s meeting of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa won unanimous approval for a plan addressing hot-button higher ed issues of the moment like productivity, efficiency and accountability. The regents also committed to $243.6 million in investments that support Cigarroa’s vision.
As expected, turnout for the meeting was unusually high. In addition to a number of students and higher ed boosters, a handful of state officials were also in attendance, including Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board chairman Fred Heldenfels.
Speaking of the need for “continual improvement,” Cigarroa laid out a 9-plank framework focusing on undergraduate access and success, faculty and administrative excellence, research, productivity and efficiency, strategic investments in the system’s information technology infrastructure, enhancing philanthropic success, boosting Ph.D. programs, advancing the state’s medical education and services and expanding educational opportunities in South Texas.
“Texas finds itself at the epicenter of the national debate on the future of higher education,” Cigarroa said. “I also firmly believe no university system is better poised than the University of Texas System to lead the debate and offer solutions to benefit our students, faculty and staff.”
Multiple strategies and goals accompanied each of the nine planks, along with firm dates for benchmarks. One fast approaching example: All university presidents must establish and submit goals for higher rates degrees conferred by December of this year. A longer-term goal: implementing incentive-based compensation systems for faculty and administrators by fiscal year 2014.
Cigarroa, who in May warned regents against micromanaging institutions, made a point of noting that institutions could reach these goals in their own way. “One size does not fit all,” he said.In addition, the regents’ teaching awards program will be expanded, there will be promotion of research collaboration between institutions, the efforts of the System’s emerging research universities will be bolstered and greater emphasis will be placed on shared services among institutions to help boost productivity.
Starting next academic year, in the name of transparency and to encourage quicker times to degree, students will be provided disclosure statements of anticipated costs for their degree. Further strategies for reducing both student cost burdens and policies that encourage students to graduate in four years will also be due next year.
Cigarroa’s plan also includes initiatives addressing issues that have not been a focus of the recent higher ed debate, such as investing money in enhancing science and technology education in South Texas or and allocating of a larger portion of institutional expenditures to philanthropy by a date certain.
The plan, which Cigarroa said has been in process since May, incorporated the recommendations of two task forces created earlier this year —one on blended and online learning and another on university productivity and excellence. “This is a significant first step in what will be a lengthy and rewarding process,” said Regent Brenda Pejovich, who chaired the task force on excellence and productivity. Read more…