What is a “Tier One University”?
A tier one university is a university that is ranked in the top tier of national public research universities. Criteria for selection are not universally defined and include the following considerations: membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), which is “the club” of the nation’s 60 best research universities; annual research expenditures of $100 million or more; and U.S. News and World Report rankings considering reputation, quality, funding, and research productivity.
Texas currently has only three tier one universities: University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University.
What is an “emerging research institution”?
Emerging research institutions are designated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). According to the THECB, emerging research universities are education, scientific, engineering, business and cultural resource centers committed to the three-fold mission of teaching, research and service. As universities with extensive education programs, academic efforts are directed to applied and basic research in selected fields, teaching and scholarship, and creative activities. The universities encourage faculty members to be active researchers in their respective disciplines and to involve both undergraduate and graduate students in research and creative pursuits. These institutions offer a wide range of baccalaureate and master’s programs, serve a student population from within and outside the region, and are committed to graduate education through the doctorate degree in targeted areas of excellence. The institutions award at least 20 doctoral degrees per year, offer at least 10 doctoral programs, and/or enroll at least 150 doctoral students.
Texas institutions within the above criteria for emerging research universities include:
- The University of Texas at Arlington
- The University of Texas at Dallas
- The University of Texas at El Paso
- The University of Texas at San Antonio
- University of Houston
- University of North Texas
- Texas Tech University
How does an emerging research university ascend to a Tier One University?
Universities must be nationally competitive in the quality of their faculty, academic programs, and students, as measured by faculty awards, program rankings, student learning and freshman profile. They must also produce nationally competitive research and scholarship, which is measured by the amount of research dollars their researchers bring in and the impact their scholarship has on new discoveries. Finally, they must prove they have the support base necessary to sustain their competiveness, which is measured by the size of their endowment and alumni giving. National organizations use these objective measures to group universities in categories, and advancing to the top category (Tier One) takes improvement on all of these fronts.
What legislation passed during the 81st Session relating to Tier One Universities?
The Legislature passed two measures, House Bill 51 and House Joint Resolution 14 (the basis for Proposition 4) to provide pathways for the seven emerging research universities to become competitive on a national scale.
How will the new legislation assist emerging research institutions become Tier One Universities?
Two different pieces of legislation offer a long term pathway (HJR 14) and immediate aid (HB 51) to promote emerging research institutions in Texas to Tier One status.
HJR 14, the basis for Proposition 4, represents the long term solution in the form of a constitutional amendment that, if approved, will establish a permanent fund (the National Research University Fund or NRUF) to distribute funds to emerging research universities for the purposes of enhancing research and teaching capabilities.
The amendment, if passed, would establish the NRUF through the transfer of the assets of the Higher Education Fund (HEF), which was established in 1986 to benefit institutions that are not eligible for the Available University Fund (only UT Austin, A&M, A&M Prairie View are funded through the AUF). The Higher Education Fund had accumulated more than $575 million by the end of fiscal year 2008, but is currently estimated to be worth roughly $500 million.
Institutions in pursuit of Tier One status must meet criteria outlined by HB 51 before they can begin to draw funds from the NRUF. The constitutional amendment will be voted on November 3, 2009 and must be approved by the voters to be implemented.
HB 51 represents the immediate aid from the state for Tier One Universities. HB 51 creates two additional funding initiatives to help create national research universities: the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP) to match private gifts for research, which is limited for use to only the seven emerging research institutions, and a Research University Development Fund distributed in proportion to research funds spent by each institution, which is also open to UT Austin and Texas A&M. The TRIP has been funded at $50 million for this biennium. Under the TRIP, private gifts to enhance research capabilities are eligible for state matching funds on the following sliding scale:
|$0 to $100,000
|$100,000 to $1 million
|$1 million to $2 million
|$2 million +
||100% match (up to $10 million)
How long will the transition from an emerging research university to a Tier One University take?
Three national organizations classify universities based on their research: The Carnegie Foundation for Advancement in Teaching, the Center for University Performance, and the Association of American Universities. The amount of time that it will take for the seven emerging research institutions to become Tier One Universities will vary depending on several factors.
All seven emerging research universities are eligible to benefit from this program, but the funding will go more quickly to those institutions that are most successful in attracting the outside funding that is essential for achieving Tier One states and implementing choices consistent with a Tier One university profile.
For instance, to obtain grants from the NRUF an institution would have to spend at least $45 million per year in restricted research funds and satisfy four of six other criteria, such as an endowment of $400 million, the awarding of at least 200 Ph.D. degrees, and a student body and faculty that meets standards of high quality.
The following are current breakdowns of the seven emerging research institutions in areas respective to research expenditures, doctoral degrees awarded, and quality faculty members (as measured by membership in national academies)
- University of Houston - $76 million in research expenditures ($39 million federal), 239 doctoral degrees awarded, 8 faculty members with membership in the National Academies;
- Texas Tech, $59 million in research expenditures ($22 million federal), 192 doctoral degrees awarded, 1 faculty member with membership in the National Academies;
- UT Dallas, $44 million in research expenditures ($20 million federal), 133 doctoral degrees awarded, 2 faculty members with membership in the National Academies;
- UT El Paso, $32 million in research expenditures ($19 million federal), 39 doctoral degrees awarded;
- UT San Antonio, $30 million in research expenditures ($20 million federal), 46 doctoral degrees awarded;
- UT Arlington, $29 million in research expenditures ($19 million federal), 124 doctoral degrees awarded; and,
- University of North Texas, $15 million in research expenditures ($8 million federal), 196 doctoral degrees awarded.
How will additional funding assist the universities in enhancing their research and status?
The universities would use additional state funding to hire more top-quality faculty, to enhance educational and research support for students, to build research facilities and infrastructure, and to fund programs that are essential to becoming a true Tier One institution. Matching state funds for gifts and community funds could go to support many elements critical for a Tier One University such as: merit-based undergraduate student scholarships; graduate student fellowships; recruitment of top faculty, professors, or chairs; ability to fund research programs, infrastructure and research equipment; and funding for pipeline programs for at-risk students and critical fields.