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No Merger of CEPS, COLSA and EOS; Grad School Still Under Review

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To:

The Campus Community

From:

John Aber, Provost

Re:

Next Steps on Schools and the Budget Task Force Report

Date:

12 September 2011


As the new semester gains momentum, here is the promised final update on activities that occurred over the summer with regard to the formation of interdisciplinary schools, and in response to the Budget Task Force.  You may remember that the major recommendations from the task force related to the possible restructuring of the Science and Engineering units on campus (CEPS, COLSA and EOS), and a review of graduate programs and the graduate school. 

Reorganization and the Interdisciplinary Schools

These two topics are combined here because of the outcome of the Science Reorganization retreat on July 22 (membership listed in previous letter).

That group addressed the possible merging of the three units into one in order to enhance interdisciplinarity and efficiency (to reduce expenses and protect academic programs).  Based on discussions in the group, the availability of information from other institutions on similar merger efforts, and the recent completion of a comprehensive reorganization in COLSA, it was concluded that there is no advantage to pursuing this merger at this time.  There will be no further discussions on this idea.

Instead, the group turned to the question of the two proposed schools that intersect with COLSA, CEPS and EOS; the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering and the School of Earth and Environment. Proposals for both schools, prepared by groups of faculty engaged in these fields, were completed during the last academic year. The “Marine” school proposal has been under consideration for over two years and is quite mature. The proposal for the “Earth” school was more conceptual.  Both proposals are posted at:  
http://www.unh.edu/strategicplanning/ten-initiatives-interdisciplinary-schools-and-academies

Because of the maturity of the Marine proposal, and the broad faculty participation in its construction, faculty that led that effort are meeting with Senior Vice Provost Jan Nisbet to draft a budget model for the new school.  Meetings were held over the summer, and a draft budget will be available soon.  The proposal for the Earth School has a broader scope with potential impacts on undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs.  Another round of discussions to follow up on the conversation during the 22 July retreat will begin soon.

Interestingly, the reorganization retreat generated significant support for the Marine and Earth schools, and participants spent considerable time discussing the structure, nature and location of these Schools (see summary report http://www.unh.edu/provost/).  We also have the input from the UCAPC committee of the Faculty Senate that held discussions on the concept of schools throughout the last academic year, and reviewed a draft policy.  With two specific proposals in hand, and discussions of budget models and reporting structures on going with faculty, administrators, and a special Senate committee formed to follow and participate, we should make concrete progress toward the establishment of these two schools this fall.

The proposal for the third school, tentatively called “Public Service and Policy”, will be completed this summer.  See my last letter for the makeup of the group drafting this proposal.

Reviews

The Budget Task Force report called for a full review of graduate programs and the Graduate School, and a process for reviewing all academic and auxiliary programs and offices on campus.

Graduate School - The major step in the Graduate review was a retreat that occurred on Aug. 25.  Attendees were self-selected following an open invitation to all grad program coordinators, chairs of departments with graduate programs, the Grad Council, the leadership of the Graduate Student Senate, and the OS and PAT councils.  The Faculty Senate also appointed participants, and has formed an ad hoc committee to monitor and participate in the review process.  Three members of the Senate were at the August retreat.

Participants at the retreat were able to draw on national data on academic productivity and on admission and completion data at the program level.  The full group (see http://www.unh.edu/provost/ for membership and outcomes) was divided into four subgroups addressing three broad: 1) Professional graduate degree programs, 2) Academic graduate degree programs (two groups), and 3) Structure and function of the graduate school. The group drew some pretty clear distinctions between professional and academic degree programs, and identified different sets of opportunities and challenges for each set of programs. 

For professional programs, there appears to be potential for growth in ways that would enhance the profile of UNH, serve additional students and to improve net revenues.  Major competitors in this space include some of the more aggressive on line providers, including Phoenix and Walden.  Opportunities to increase online offerings and to coordinate programs through the Manchester and Concord (Law School) campuses were discussed, as well as the need for better marketing and recruitment.

Academic graduate programs present a more complex picture.  The dual nature of TAs in the classroom and in support of faculty research programs makes the TA experience variable across campus. Disincentives for supporting graduate students on grants were presented.  Several cases of misalignment between research strengths and existence of degree programs were identified.  Data on variable (and occasionally quite low) academic productivity among Ph.D. programs on campus, combined with quite variable admission, yield, support and completion data will be cause for future discussions.

There was generally high praise for the Graduate School in terms of program and policy development, admissions processing, and support for graduate students.  Suggestions were made regarding increasing the frequency and rigor of programmatic review.

Overall Program Review – As mentioned in my last letter (http://www.unh.edu/provost/)
we have agreement that our next NEASC university-wide accreditation process, to be led by Senior Vice Provost Lisa MacFarlane, will, at her suggestion, serve as the in-depth review of academic programs called for by the Budget Task Force. The intense self-study that precedes the writing of the NEASC document and on-campus review is, in a very real sense, a review of all of our programs. 

My thanks to all the faculty, staff and students who attended the two major retreats this summer, and to those who helped make them happen.  Real progress was made.  Look for more in the near future.