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UT System report analyzes research capacities

(May 13, 2004)--As part of a University of Texas System initiative to evaluate ways to expand research capacities of its academic components, The University of Texas at San Antonio worked with the Washington Advisory Group (WAG), a nationally prominent consultancy representing various national academies, to help draft a comprehensive plan to enhance UTSA's research capacity, quality and national ranking.

According to UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof, "[the WAG review] will allow us to set benchmarks for developing each of these institutions to their fullest potential. The campuses, the communities that they serve, the faculty and students will all benefit from this unprecedented effort."

"University research is essential to the socioeconomic future of Texas and our nation," said UTSA President Ricardo Romo. "Officials at UTSA are very appreciative to be part of this review and will use information from the WAG report to strategize best practices to use current resources and leverage new opportunities to continue the university's evolution into a premier research university. Many of the items in the report support directions we already have taken to strengthen research initiatives at UTSA, where teaching, creation of new knowledge and public service are paramount."

The WAG report recommends that UTSA increase the number of doctoral programs at the institution, where 10 Ph.D. programs have been developed since 1995.

"UTSA has developed more doctoral programs in the last four years than any other institution of higher education in Texas," said Guy Bailey, provost and executive vice president. "We plan to continue this trend, with development currently underway of new doctoral programs in chemistry, public policy, physics, applied demography and statistics, and neuroscience, among others. We recently implemented doctoral programs in environmental science, electrical engineering, cell and molecular biology, and biomedical engineering."

As the WAG report recommends, strategic planning is essential to the development of UTSA as a premier research university. Officials at UTSA had included a comprehensive commitment to strategic planning in its compact presented to UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof. While the WAG report mentions a "sub-critical" size of faculty, the university plans to hire at least 70 faculty members this year and a similar number each of the subsequent five years. Recent faculty recruitment has been especially successful in the scientific disciplines, according to Bailey.

The WAG report also recommends the hiring of a scientist or engineer in a senior-level position. "UTSA currently is recruiting a nationally-known scientist to serve as vice president for research, and we hope to have that position filled by December of this year," Romo said.

UTSA also is currently adding to its research infrastructure, as the WAG report recommends. Construction began last year on the Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Building, which upon completion will be one of the most sophisticated science facilities at a public university in Texas.

Although the WAG report recommends that UTSA limit faculty hiring to no more than 30 faculty each year, both Romo and Bailey agreed that due to increasing enrollment and the goal to continue building excellence in faculty, it is important to maintain a higher rate of faculty hiring at UTSA.

"With approximately 450 tenured/tenure-track faculty, UTSA can expect attrition or resignation of nearly 23 faculty each year," Bailey added.

"While we have to be vigilant in maintaining high standards for faculty, we also must address the sub-critical size of our faculty, resulting in the need to recruit at least 50 faculty each year at UTSA -- one of the state's, if not the nation's, fastest growing universities. Hiring top faculty will further enhance UTSA as an economic engine for the city as this gained knowledge is shared with the business community."

The full WAG report, which was approved today by the Board of Regents, is available at the UT System Web site.

--David Gabler

University Communications
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