Sunday, October 12, 2003

Academic excellence

UC: Master plan

New University of Cincinnati President Nancy L. Zimpher already has staked out a new academic master plan as the cornerstone project for her administration. She is clearly proceeding with the UC board's blessing, and acknowledges a huge debt to her predecessor, Joseph Steger, who directed an extraordinary rebuilding of the east and west campuses. Zimpher told the Enquirer editorial board Tuesday she aims to merge an ambitious new academic plan with the ongoing facilities building plan so academic objectives drive the later phases of UC's building.

Given bare-bones state budgets and fierce competition between universities, she's right that UC needs to be even more strategic in developing its academic and building programs.

Roderick Chu, chancellor of Ohio's Board of Regents, on Wednesday again slammed Ohio's public colleges and universities for offering too many mediocre or duplicate graduate school programs and medical schools. Ohio has six medical schools; California, only five. The Ohio regents have failed miserably to persuade resisting universities to cut programs. The regents tried to cut six history programs eight years ago, but only one was eliminated, at the University of Akron. Chu is asking for power to abolish more programs.

Zimpher is assessing UC's "array of accomplished programs, some working together, some not," and says UC researchers must continue to build research collaboratives with outside corporations and institutions.

As UC, the area's largest university, evolves into a premier national research center, it is experiencing growing pains and some conflict over its traditional role as a high-access undergrad school. Zimpher aims to grow enrollment to some still-undefined optimal number, but she sees the need to shift attention from wide-open access to making sure admitted students are likelier to graduate. The jokes about "UC" standing for "Under Construction" will be long forgotten if Zimpher's strategic master plan can enhance centers of academic excellence on all UC campuses, including outstanding undergraduate programs.

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