Charting A Path
The Strategic Plan for the
University of Maryland
at College Park
March 27, 1996
(This is the final version of the university's strategic plan. It supersedes the Feb. 22, 1996, final draft version of the plan, and incorporates changes made beyond that date.)
Table of Contents
But it is also significantly more and less than a "strategic plan" as that phrase is usually understood. While we identify several "strategic initiatives," we also offer a vision of academic excellence that gives meaning and importance to our discussions of strategy. And because we are a university committed to the concept of shared governance, we do not mandate how all our organizational resources should be marshaled in support of a limited number of programs. Instead, we describe the kind of distinguished academic institution we believe the University of Maryland can become, a set of strategies that will help us to make progress toward that goal, and an approach to resource allocation that will enable us to put our human and financial resources to best use. We do not attempt to predict which units will take the greatest advantage of the opportunities for growth that will still be available, but we do make it clear how successful performance will be defined and measured on the College Park campus over the next several years.
The 1988 legislation which created today's University of Maryland System designated the College Park campus as the flagship institution for the System and the comprehensive public research university for the State. The act specifically directed the University to appoint faculty and offer programs "nationally and internationally recognized for excellence in research and the advancement of knowledge" and to "admit highly qualified students with academic profiles that suggest exceptional ability." It also directed the System's Board of Regents to provide the campus with "the level of operating funding and facilities necessary to place it among the upper echelon of its peer institutions." As one of the nation's original land-grant institutions the University is also directed to serve as the State's primary center for graduate training and research and to make available the fruits of its research activities to help meet the needs of the State and its citizens. In short, we are expected to be:
One of the nation's preeminent public research universities, an institution recognized both nationally and internationally for excellence in research and instruction, which makes the results of its research available for the use and benefit of the State of Maryland and its people.As we see it, living up to the terms of this mandate will require that we:
The specific measures we will propose in support of these broad strategies do not represent a fresh start toward an altogether new destination. Rather, they are ways of capitalizing on the progress we have already made. It is precisely because we are already a very good university that we can realistically contemplate measures that will enable us to become one of the nation's best.
The campus has also been recognized as an innovator in undergraduate science education. In introductory Biology courses our students are now able to isolate, clone, and analyze genetic materials. A wide range of sophisticated instrumentation is employed in upper-level courses -- electron microscopes, microscopy/computer imaging systems, and biochemical and electronic analytical instruments that approximate those currently in use in research laboratories. Our students can also obtain data on the environment directly from NASA and EPA, and our undergraduate engineering students employ state-of-the-art design models through computer links with both federal agencies and private industry.
The use of computers in connection with instruction has grown enormously during the past several years, and the University can lay claim to several leading experts in the area of instructional uses of computers as well as a number of innovative programs in business, engineering, and other areas. Computers have transformed the character of daily academic life, from course registration and obtaining final grades to e-mail communication between students and teachers, computer-based learning programs, and access to information sources around the globe. But one of our greatest challenges remains the incorporation of new information technologies within regular classroom instruction and student advising.
The undergraduate research-award program has provided a limited number of our students with the special kind of educational experiences that are available only at a research university. Our extensive international programs and proximity to the nation's capital supply us with a rich set of resources for educating our students for "tomorrow's global society." Our diverse student body, faculty, and staff, and our commitment to maintaining an inclusive campus environment will help us to prepare our students to succeed in the America of the next century. Thus, to a significant degree, our task will be to find ways to capitalize on our present strengths and to solidify recent gains.
But we must also provide incentives and rewards for those units eager to innovate, and deliver improved results. The primary role of the campus administration and college deans in this regard must be the same as that described under Initiative Four below: to encourage and inspire innovative efforts, rather than to conceive and institute new programs on their own. A central part of their task, to put it more bluntly, must be to remove resources from less effective programs and to reallocate them to units ready, willing, and able to improve the quality of the undergraduate experience.
The plans submitted by individual departments and colleges provide ample evidence that our faculty and staff will respond well to such a challenge. Among the initiatives mentioned:
The University cannot afford to be -- nor do we want to be -- a doctoral supermarket. Rather, we want every Ph.D. program we operate to enjoy a level of distinction, even if this means we must eliminate existing programs. Our overriding commitment must be operating only those programs that can measure up to the highest standards of quality. Clearly, we now possess a number of strong graduate programs in science and technology, public policy, and the professional schools. These programs will be encouraged to sharpen their focus and develop areas of national eminence. But we cannot claim to be a great university unless we are also strong in core arts and sciences areas, including life sciences, arts, and humanities. One of our objectives must be to raise some of the Ph.D. programs within Arts and Humanities and Life Sciences into the "distinguished" category.
The plans submitted by various campus units show clearly that the concepts of targeted opportunities and selectivity have become part of campus thinking:
In recent decades, however, the provision of continuing education, executive-training programs, and other special educational services has been part of the official mission of University College, not College Park. Only in the past several years has the campus undertaken to capitalize on the vast research and instructional expertise of its faculty in order to respond more directly to the growing demand for instructional programs outside our regular curriculum. The plans submitted by the colleges make it clear that many units are ready and willing to increase these activities:
Fortunately, there are a number of additional revenue opportunities, and we have begun to capitalize on some of them. Indeed, the campus's level of sponsored research has shown a steady increase over the last decade. However, a sizable and largely undeveloped entrepreneurial potential still remains to be tapped. Among the possibilities: joint ventures with industry, executive education and other non-degree instructional programs, licensing and patenting, instructional television, and technical-assistance centers. In each of these respects, our under-developed entrepreneurial capacities represent the single most promising means for diversifying our sources of revenue and securing a degree of financial stability even in the face of sharp fluctuations in State funding levels. We must, therefore, work to empower and expedite the efforts of those departments, colleges, and individual faculty members who have the capacity and desire to generate and utilize new sources of support.
It would appear that a number of campus units have already been thinking along these lines. For example:
At the unit level this means that department chairs must insure that they are utilizing their resources in an optimum fashion relative to the goals set out in this strategic plan. Are instructional resources being distributed appropriately among the different instructional levels? Are the specific talents of individual faculty for research, teaching, service, or entrepreneurial activities being taken into account when semester workload assignments are made?
At the college and campus levels, this will require a greater degree of budgetary discipline than has usually been in effect in the past. Recognizing that there will always be some unanticipated opportunities that demand special resource allocations, there must nevertheless be a firm commitment to avoiding an ad hoc distribution of resources based entirely on the most recent "great idea." The colleges and campus also must be prepared to consider significant changes in their organizational structures in order to meet the plan's goals.
In addition, the campus must work to identify and scrap inefficient or unwieldy procedures which frustrate students, staff, and faculty, and impair the campus's ability to provide high-quality services at a reasonable cost. In recent years the campus has succeeded in creating a "paperless" academic appointment system along with many other improvements made in connection with Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI). We must continue these efforts if the University is to enjoy effective working relationships with private-sector firms and improve its competitive position. Here also unit operations must be reviewed using the criteria of strategic centrality, competitive quality, and cost-effectiveness.
As has been indicated, State appropriations for the University are projected to remain essentially flat over the next five-year period. Current estimates call for a series of increases in General Fund support averaging three percent per year between FY 97 and FY 01, a level of support which will at best maintain campus operations at their present level. The campus is expected to receive $2 million in additional funds in the FY 97 budget, which will be targeted for faculty salaries and enhancements in undergraduate education (including increased student financial aid). Under the terms of the campus's approved tuition plan, it is scheduled to obtain a series of increases in tuition over the next several years. However, even these increases and increments in State appropriations will be insufficient to offset costs associated with inflationary increases and the operation of new facilities.
Since State appropriations will be insufficient to underwrite the costs of new programs and activities, we have no choice but to turn to other sources. The primary source of funds to support the plan is our existing $700 million budget. Over the next five years, through a rigorous budget process, we will expect units to realign their budgets to support the objectives of this plan. Wherever possible, we must also attempt to free up existing resources from the campus budget -- through the imposition of small-percentage annual levies, collection and redistribution of vacant faculty and staff lines, and other economies. In addition, we must attempt to generate substantial additional revenues through entrepreneurial activities and seek additional gifts, grants, and awards from private-sector groups and individuals. The absence of additional State funds should not be viewed as an impediment to implementing the plan; it is rather part of the stark reality that has prompted the development of our plan in its entirety.
Assessing the Effectiveness of the Strategic Plan
We propose that the following indicators be used in order to monitor the extent of progress made during each of the next five years:
If our plan is to succeed, it will need to be broadly supported and energetically implemented by a broad cross-section of the campus community. It offers a role for everyone to play in helping to move the institution toward a set of admirable goals. The economic realities of our times mean that, if we are to succeed, units and individuals will have to focus their efforts on those particular aspects of the plan they are best able to support. This will not be easy. It will require that we all place a higher priority on pursuing our collective excellence than has been the case in the past. But, as we begin our task, not the least of our assets is a strategic plan that can help us to focus our resources and energies in pursuit of our most important objectives.