Recommendations One – Four
Establishing an Environment That Promotes Excellence
Reduce the undergraduate student-faculty ratio to 16:1 within a decade, with no college having a ratio greater than 17:1.
The quality of education the Commission seeks for UT students can be achieved only if there is a direct and meaningful engagement between students and professors. Such engagement is essential if we are to prepare students for an increasingly complex world. The student/faculty ratio is an important and traditional measure of a quality undergraduate education.
The University’s current student-faculty ratio is 21:1, whereas the nation’s top public universities have an average ratio of 17:1.
Student-Faculty Ratio: 2002–2003
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 13/1
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 16/1
University of Virginia 16/1
University of Wisconsin, Madison 16/1
University of California, Berkeley 17/1
University of California, Los Angeles 21/1 (01–02)
University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign 21/1
The University of Texas 21/1
Decreasing the student-faculty ratio will require reducing enrollment while also expanding the faculty. But the latter objective must not undermine The University’s commitment to recruit and hire new tenure-track professors of the highest quality.
The quality of the educational experience must be the primary factor in determining the size of the student body.
The administration should develop a model to determine the optimal size of the student body using factors such as student-faculty ratio, percentage of semester credit hours taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty, class size, and available facilities and financial resources.
Quality of education must be the first priority. To serve the largest number of students, consistent with this priority, The University must improve graduation rates and degree-completion times.
Bachelor’s degrees should be completed in four years unless otherwise required by the degree plan or by extenuating circumstances.
The present size of The University is an impediment to delivering an educational experience of the highest quality. Forty years ago, the undergraduate and graduate enrollment was 22,385 students. By fall 2003 it had expanded to 51,426, a gain of 130 percent. Meanwhile, the four-year graduation rate for undergraduates in 2003 was just 41.7 percent. Among a peer group of the top public universities, UT and the University of Wisconsin have the lowest four-year graduation rates.
Four-Year Graduation Rates: 2003
University of Virginia 83.0%
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 70.5%
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 69.5%
University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign 59.1%
University of California, Berkeley 58.3%
University of California, Los Angeles 54.6%
The University of Texas 41.7%
University of Wisconsin, Madison 41.7%
UT’s low four-year graduation rate is explained in part by the light course loads undertaken by many of our students. They take, on average, just 13.1 semester hours, which is unacceptable. The average should be at least 15 semester hours in order for students to make timely progress toward their degrees.
If the average undergraduate course load increases and more faculty are hired to reduce the student-faculty ratio, the Commission believes that the total enrollment should stabilize at approximately 48,000.
The University must aggressively recruit and enroll outstanding students representing the diverse regions and populations of Texas and beyond.
In all its recruiting, admissions, and hiring, The University must base decisions on its vision to create a disciplined culture of excellence while building a community that reflects the face of Texas.
A separate office for recruiting students should be established. No single factor should be used for admission. Rather, a holistic approach should be used for the admission of all undergraduate applicants. Factors should include SAT or ACT scores, class rank, socioeconomic
background, race, high school curriculum, extracurricular activities, leadership, community service, honors and awards, work experience, special talents, geography, and extenuating circumstances.
The University should exercise primary control over admissions and efforts to ensure diversity. The Legislature should not adopt or retain any legislation that impedes UT’s ability to use a holistic approach to admissions. To recruit the best, The University must expand its financial aid program. No qualified student should be prevented from attending The University for financial reasons.
Libraries, museums, and information technology resources at The University of Texas must rank with those of the best universities in the world.
The University’s various collections contain significant components of the world’s cultural, intellectual, and artistic record. These treasures must be preserved, organized, and enhanced to support scholarship and education within and beyond the campus. We must continue this tradition by acquiring new materials to advance scholarly research and public access. Our treasures possess great potential to foster awareness of UT, especially via technology, which allows our collections to be shared in innovative educational experiences on campus and throughout Texas and the world at large.
Libraries are fundamental to teaching, learning, and research. As the result of decades of commitment and effort, our libraries are among the very best. Certain areas within our libraries, museums, and information technology systems are already of the first rank. The challenge is not merely to retain this status in the outstanding collections, but to elevate all significant UT collections to that standard.
The Commission recommends a consistent and aggressive program for the maintenance and improvement of UT’s libraries and museums. However, collections that are weak or no longer relevant may need to be phased out.
In a world increasingly dependent upon innovative information systems, it will be impossible to reach these goals unless The University maintains its leadership in information technology. A world-class information technology system is an indispensable goal in itself, but in terms of access to and management of UT’s libraries and museums, it is an absolute imperative. A recognized leader in digital libraries and administrative systems, UT is ideally positioned to develop the technology systems required of a great 21st-century university.
Recommendations Five – Seven
Producing a Comprehensive Master Plan
Develop a University Master Plan to integrate academic planning and strategic goals with our facilities, infrastructure, and financial resources. The plan should be selective, and results should be measured systematically and objectively.
The University Master Plan for facilities, infrastructure, and financial resources must serve academic initiatives and aspirations, thereby providing a road map to support a disciplined culture of excellence.
The plan must be selective—it cannot apply resources equally to all academic programs. The plan should advance long-term academic goals and identify new initiatives and areas to receive special emphasis. Both UT’s teaching mission and the student experience are best served by a single, well-planned campus.
The University Master Plan should:
- Prioritize resources to support academic and educational needs and goals.
- Encourage consolidation of duplicate academic or administrative functions.
- Provide a process for evaluating academic programs, and, if necessary, curtailing or eliminating those that are outdated or performing poorly.
- Facilitate cooperation and planning among the colleges, the central university administration, facilities planning groups, and the Office of Resource Development.
- Coordinate facilities planning to assist in recruiting and retaining talented faculty, resulting in improved teaching and research.
- Facilitate specially designed classrooms, offices, laboratories, and other structures when necessary.
- Adhere to the spirit of the Campus Master Plan created in collaboration with Cesar Pelli and Associates.
- Guide fundraising and the development of existing and new resources.
- Identify opportunities to collaborate with programs at other institutions, especially those within The University of Texas System.
The University Master Plan should be flexible, not a rigid and absolute formula for the deployment of resources over a long period of time. It should define the main forces impacting The University, the main challenges and opportunities, and the principles and priorities for development in the near and intermediate term. The plan should be a guide, not a recipe, for leaders who must respond and adapt to the changing landscape in academia and the world at large.
The University Master Plan must address technology, which is a key part of the infrastructure and will play a major role in all university enterprises. UT must embrace technology and commit resources to being on the leading edge of new developments, even at the risk of making mistakes.
The University must consistently make the best use of its facilities, especially its classroom and laboratory space and off-campus properties, while maintaining a superior campus environment. New facilities should be designed and built more efficiently, with better coordination among academic, facilities planning, operations, and fundraising divisions.
The University has a backlog of critical maintenance and renovation projects, largely the result of the aging of the campus and inadequate resources. It has neglected open spaces that are vital campus assets.
There is a shortage of classroom and laboratory space as well as limited land for construction of new buildings on the main campus. Furthermore, The University should use its facilities more efficiently. The Commission therefore suggests that The University:
- Make better use of existing campus buildings through a faculty compensation system and tuition incentives that promote classes scheduled outside traditional classroom hours and during summer months.
- Design buildings to be multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. Emphasize flexible use, unless building specialization is essential.
- Renovate or replace older structures, when possible, instead of expanding building inventory, which increases the amount of space to be maintained.
- Develop techniques to cut the cost of construction, operation, and maintenance without compromising quality. Adopt energy and environmental policies that conserve resources. Utilize the Pickle Research Campus for projects where less stringent design guidelines are appropriate, yielding more flexible and less expensive construction.
- Recognize that facilities and space provide capacity seven days a week.
- Coordinate design and construction efforts. Enlist the expertise of faculty and staff, particularly in the School of Architecture.
- Use landscape architects on all capital projects to create environments that are beautiful, efficiently maintained, and ecologically sustainable.
- Develop or lease non-campus properties to create investment income.
- Consider alternative models for development and construction, including joint ventures with private enterprise and non-traditional construction and acquisition methods.
Build financial strength and develop new public and private resources to support academic excellence.
The University’s academic strength rests on a financial foundation that includes state appropriations, the Permanent University Fund, endowments, tuition, citizen and alumni support, research grants, commercialization of intellectual property, and other sources. That foundation must be strengthened to accommodate future growth. Of critical importance is increased state support. State funding for UT’s annual budget has dropped from 48.3 percent in 1973 to less than 20 percent in 2003. Despite increased student fees, submarket raises to employees, expanded research grants and contracts, and increased reliance on gifts and endowments, UT has had to finance its budgetary 25⨪shortfall through deferred maintenance, repair, and renovation of its buildings and physical plant.
Tuition deregulation permitted by the Legislature in 2003 has addressed some of UT’s financial needs, but reliance on tuition increases is not feasible as a single long-term strategy. Increased state funding is essential. Innovative forms of financing must be continually considered for all University enterprises.
Non-traditional financing can produce benefits and reduce costs in building construction, joint ventures, and auxiliary services.
The University should take advantage of underdeveloped and undeveloped assets, including valuable real estate located away from the main campus and commercialization of abundant intellectual property.
The strategic recommendations of the Commission clearly place emphasis on building intellectual capital. Therefore, just as it has been used for building physical infrastructure, bonding capacity should be utilized to fund the development of the academic initiatives called for in this report.
These recommendations require growth of and additional support for the Office of Resource Development.
Recommendations Eight – Thirteen
Creating Life-Enhancing Student Learning Experiences
Every student should receive effective academic advising and have access to a mentor.
All students should be assigned an academic advisor. Academic advisors are critical to student success, especially in a university as large as UT, because they provide human contact and personalized advice in a setting that can otherwise seem daunting and impersonal. At UT, professional advisors help students set goals and monitor progress toward completion of degree requirements. In many cases, however, a student may interact with a different advisor at every advising session, which inhibits building a strong student-advisor relationship with continuity.
Effective academic advising is crucial to the goal of increasing the four-year graduation rate. Informed advising can help students avoid enrolling in courses that do not fulfill degree requirements and can also enrich learning by tailoring The University experience to the needs and interests of individual students.
Mentors, on the other hand, can offer students general advice on academic development and life decisions. They help students see the larger picture and take advantage of the richness of the campus environment and opportunities beyond graduation. Every student should have access to a mentor who may be selected from faculty, staff, administration, alumni, graduate students, and/or older students. Mentors can provide guidance to students in setting goals, solving problems, and making career decisions.
Increase the campus residence-hall capacity to 9,000 beds.
Students who live on campus tend to perform better academically and adjust more successfully to college life. And their very presence, day and night, improves the sense of community that encourages strong bonding with the institution. These observations led to a recommendation in the Campus Master Plan that residence-hall capacity be expanded. The first step was the construction of San Jacinto Hall, which opened in 2000 with 850 beds and increased total campus residence-hall capacity to 6,700 beds.
All freshmen should be able to live on campus. (In fall 2004, of the 5,630 freshmen who applied for campus housing, only 3,660 received housing assignments.) By expanding capacity to 9,000 beds, The University can provide housing to all freshmen who want to live on campus, while maintaining an appropriate mix of freshmen and non-freshmen in its dormitories. Residence-hall capacity will need to be reviewed periodically to consider changes in housing patterns and enrollment.
Construct student activity space on the east side or on the perimeter of the campus.
The Texas Union, built in the 1930s for a much smaller institution, cannot meet today’s needs of an active community of more than 50,000 students. Its location on the western edge of the campus leaves much of the student population ill-served, especially those in the sciences, engineering, fine arts, and law.
Space is needed for study groups, group projects, and meetings of student organizations, as well as for rest and recreation. With so many students now commuting from other parts of the city, The University needs more space for students when they are not in class. The creation of a new activity center to serve the east side of campus will be a major step toward building a stronger campus community and improving the student experience.
The Honor Code should be assimilated into the culture of the campus and made relevant to the lives of all members of The University of Texas community.
No faculty, however distinguished, can alone ensure the reputation of a university. Nor can a reputation be ordained by administrators or mandated by committee. It must be earned over time—and largely through a commitment to shared values by all members of the UT community.
It is vital that students help set and maintain standards of excellence at their own university. The Commission commends the student body for proposing an honor code in 2004. The administration and student body should promptly integrate the Honor Code into the life of The University. Every student, faculty member, and staff member should assume individual responsibility for upholding the reputation, values, and academic integrity of The University of Texas.
The University should recruit the very best graduate students from Texas, the nation, and the world. It should seek to create for all its graduate students an academic environment that is second to none in intellectual richness and diversity. Stipends for UT graduate students should be at least as high as those at the nation’s other premier graduate schools.
The graduate and professional programs of The University of Texas make crucial contributions to the economic, intellectual, and cultural strength of Texas, the nation, and the world. In addition, UT’s national and international reputation relies on the quality of its graduate and professional programs. The quality of graduate programs and graduate students can prove decisive in attracting high-quality faculty. Academic leaders and undergraduate students are keenly aware of the quality of graduate and professional programs at universities. In these interdependent ways, the quality of graduate and professional education has a profound effect on UT’s national and international reputation. Moreover, graduate students play an enormous role in a university’s teaching and research.
UT already is a distinguished institution. But if it is to realize its vision of excellence, it must have stellar graduate and professional programs.
Support for graduate students should be a high priority. If increased stipends cannot be provided for all programs, they should at least be offered for programs receiving special emphasis. It is important that UT’s graduate programs include students from racial and ethnic minorities. While graduate students play an important role in undergraduate education, The University should reduce its dependence on graduate students to serve as teachers at the undergraduate level. Moreover, undergraduate teaching requirements should not drive graduate school admission policy or diminish the intellectual experience for graduate students.
Faculty members should integrate graduate students into the intellectual life of their departments so that the students’ intellectual and social experiences are more akin to those of academic peers. In addition, more must be done to foster a campus-wide social and intellectual community for graduate students.
Emphasize the study of leadership and ethics.
The University has a long tradition of developing leaders at all levels. In a society frequently confronted by ethical problems, it is appropriate that The University help advance the study of leadership and ethics. The Commission recommends inclusion of ethics and leadership in the core curriculum. In addition, the Commission recommends that The University seek to provide all students with leadership opportunities. Student participation in campus and community organizations and public service has always had a major influence on the development of leadership skills on the campus. The University should take steps to foster even greater student participation and supplement these experiences with opportunities to learn leadership skills.
Recommendations Fourteen – Sixteen
Serving Texas and the World and Strengthening The University’s Engagement with Society
The University should serve Texas by marshaling its expertise, programs, and people to address major issues confronting society at large. The culture of the institution should convey to students, as well as to faculty and staff members, that a commitment to service is intrinsic to a University of Texas education.
Though it possesses national and international reach, The University has a special obligation to serve Texas. It accomplishes this primarily through teaching, which prepares future generations of leaders and citizens, and research, which expands knowledge and nurtures innovation. A major research university also serves as a listening post, a connection to the larger world of ideas and new developments. Talented faculty and research staff alert the UT community—and the state—to important new discoveries that influence technology, public health, commerce, culture, government, and other aspects of daily life. UT’s wide-ranging and influential alumni, as well as the Texas Exes alumni association, are invaluable channels of communication for keeping the campus attuned to public concerns.
Logan Wilson, a former chancellor and president of The University of Texas, said in 1953, “We want this University to be truly of the first class, not for the sake of mere emulation or rivalry, but for more basic reasons. The potentialities of a great university as an instrument for the common good are almost limitless.”
The University of Texas has a responsibility to serve the state from border to border and to provide value to citizens even if they are not students or alumni. In addition, citizens can rightly expect this flagship university to:
- Provide expertise and information resources for the people, businesses, and institutions of Texas and beyond.
- Extend educational opportunities and access by new methods, including those afforded through new technology.
- Enhance the quality of life.
- Serve as a major engine for economic progress.
- Actively address pressing public problems of Texas, the nation, and the world.
The Commission believes that UT students, to whom so much is given, bear a responsibility to give back to The University, to Texas, and to society. The University can make them more aware of this responsibility through the curriculum and student life. Faculty members also share a responsibility to serve the society that supports their research and scholarship. The faculty should embrace opportunities to enlist their expertise to help solve major issues facing society.
The University is in a strong position to lead collaborative efforts of the state’s intellectual, creative, and entrepreneurial resources in ways that will transform individual lives and improve the welfare and governance of Texas.
The University must provide the broadest and most effective access to its knowledge and collections in order to share its assets with Texas and the world at large.
The emergence of the Internet and other technologies has brought dramatic changes in education, communication, and collaboration. Recent developments in digital libraries and access through electronic networks only hint at the myriad possibilities that lie ahead for publication, presentation, and storage of materials.
While libraries and museums will remain important places to visit, UT’s collections and other resources will increasingly be experienced through electronic access, thereby removing many traditional barriers to their general use, such as time and location. Additionally, the development of sophisticated micro-technology can offer a richer and more interactive experience during the course of actual visits to university facilities.
These advances point directly to the need for skilled management of resources. To provide compelling experiences, digital libraries will have to be well designed, technically robust, and content-rich. The expertise needed to provide such services is only now being developed.
In shaping the future of innovative access to collections and resources, UT should take the lead in developing the knowledge needed to design, implement, and maintain virtual access to our cultural treasures.
The University’s communications efforts must convey the value of higher education to society. In addition, UT must clarify its key strengths and distinctive qualities and devise ways to communicate them more coherently and consistently to its constituencies at all levels.
Texas—and society in general—relies upon an educated citizenry for prosperity and well-being. The University must effectively convey that message. It must articulate, forcefully and persuasively, the crucial role that higher education plays in making Texas, and the nation, more learned and competitive. Communicating this message to the public will require a coordinated effort by all members of the UT community, not just top administrators.
In addition, we must be more aggressive in telling the story of The University—what we do and how it influences the state and beyond. To foster support for UT’s mission and to create a greater national and international presence, The University must build public awareness of its distinctive strengths and its contributions to society.
At present, the institution receives considerable national exposure resulting from the reputation of individual faculty members and programs. But a comprehensive national and international communications and public affairs effort will gain much additional exposure, attracting faculty, students, and staff of the highest quality. In addition to such public affairs initiatives, the faculty should be encouraged to actively present research at professional meetings, symposia, and other events that will raise the visibility of university programs among academic peers and the media.
The Texas Constitution mandated that the institution be designated “The University of Texas.” Accordingly, the Commission recommends that “at Austin” be dropped from the name of the institution.
In the 1950s, the Committee of 75 had enormous impact on increasing the scale and quality of graduate programs, libraries, and collections. The Centennial Commission, which completed its work 25 years later, is justly credited with the establishment of hundreds of endowments that created the legacy of a much stronger faculty. In the spirit of the Committee of 75 and the Centennial Commission, the Commission of 125 aspires to chart a path that will lead The University of Texas to a higher standard of excellence.
Universities are engines of progress, and UT can best serve all its constituencies by fulfilling its mandate to be “a university of the first class.” Indeed, the Commission of 125 offers this report in the interest of making The University of greater service to the state and to society by realizing the goal of elevating The University of Texas from a fine and respected university to the best.