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UIC Academic Directions Task Force

Background

Since FY02, the state General Revenue Fund (GRF) budget of the University has experienced a significant decline.  Revenue projections for Illinois do not suggest the trend will change in the near future.  Like many states, Illinois has gap between its revenue and its expenditures that has been only partially closed using temporary measure and debt financing. In light of a multi-billion dollar imbalance, the University of Illinois is anticipating a loss of GRF funding as a cash rescission for FY10 and a possibly equal or greater permanent loss for FY11.  While the potential exists for another increase in tuition to offset a decrement in the state budget, approximately a third of UIC’s undergraduates have all of their tuition, fees, educational and partial living expenses covered by a combination of federal, state, and UIC financial aid. Past experience shows that at UIC the net revenue from tuition increase falls far short of covering similar percentage losses in GRF, and there is understandable resistance from many constituencies to increasing tuition. In light of these ominous signs, the provost has asked each Dean and VC unit to plan for a 5% rescission for the current fiscal year, to prepare contingency plans for the possible permanent losses to UIC of $15M, $30M, and $45M dollars. Most immediately, the next fiscal year begins July 1, and there are no signs from the State that it will find the revenue to close the gaping budgetary shortfall now evident. Major reductions have already been experienced by universities in states in financial straits similar to those of Illinois.

All the trends in State financing over the last eight years and more point to a future in which UIC must adapt to operating with much less dependency on State GRF support. UIC must envision its future in which providing access to excellence is achieved with greater focus on outstanding strengths that are well aligned with UIC’s mission, even if those strengths must be concentrated within a smaller scope.

The current UIC Strategic Plan and the 2010 Strategic Thinking documents, while instructive regarding general directions, goals, values, and mission, must be revisited and reconsidered in the light of these new circumstances.  Indeed, many of the goals articulated in the Strategic Plan have been beyond the reach of the resources available over the last five years. The 2010 Report and the Strategic Plan, however, remind us of the values UIC holds dear and the aspirations we embrace, which will be even more important in guiding the adaptation: UIC intends to be the nation’s premier urban public research university, providing the broadest access to the highest levels of intellectual excellence.  UIC’s mission is:

This is the mission of UIC, and the mission endures. We must ask how best to affirm the mission under new assumptions. 

Multiple task forces are being convened to examine administrative functions and to reduce costs and redesign essential functions.  Interim President-Designate Ikenberry has charged a university-level task force on Administrative Review and Restructuring (ARR), to “rationalize the organization, improve performance and reduce costs of administration.”   The task force is asked to “review and make recommendations to [Ikenberry] to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our administrative organization and services” for action “over the next 12 to 18 months.”  At UIC, three other related task forces are being composed to look at, respectively, internally focused administrative functions, externally focused administrative functions, and information technology (as a special area of interest).

Task Force Charge

As indicated by its name, the goal of the Academic Directions Task Force will be to inform the campus of the specific academic areas in which the campus should continue to invest or invest anew – to shelter preferentially from the present adversity and to poise for growth in better times ahead. Task Force will gather information as needed to inform itself as to the intellectual and competitive strengths of each unit and program supporting UIC’s academic mission in the broadest sense, including institutes, centers, and support programs, in addition to activities organized under the present collegiate structure. The Task Force will be expected to take full advantage of internal and external sources in order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the units and programs at UIC, the value of each relative to those of UIC’s peers and to the mission and vision of UIC, and as applicable, their cost effectiveness.  For each academic unit, the Task Force should consider the centrality and impact of the unit in relationship to the overall resources committed to the unit.  For example, in addition to an overview of a department’s budget, the Task Force might consider student enrollments at all levels, tuition generated, grant activity in gross and per capita, publications and national stature, along with other qualitative indicators of prominence and impact pertinent to the field in question.  Each unit should be examined in the context of the other units that it interacts with and the synergies that it creates.  In each instance, the question must be whether sustaining the activity is essential to UIC’s mission, and whether it adds a unique strength that distinguishes UIC’s excellence. The Task Force should consider also whether there are units or departments that should be created to fill an academic role key to the future, and whether existing activities might be more meaningfully organized in a different structure.

The Task Force will report in two phases. The first phase is to be completed by September 2010 and submitted to the chancellor, the provost, and the Senate for general campus discussion and review during the fall of 2010. The report should characterize the value to campus for each program and the various means by which such values were assessed. Most importantly the report needs to include the Task Force’s recommendations as to which units and programs represent directions for future growth, and which do not, which would be enhanced by merger or collaborative efforts, and which would benefit from restructuring or reform. This Phase I report will serve as one basis for campus and college academic plans should we need to react quickly to changed budgetary circumstances.

In these tough times for our institution, we must be proactive in protecting those programs that represent the best at UIC. We must also look to the future and position UIC so that we can shape our own destiny. UIC’s future should not be determined by the inertia of its history and legacies and directions chosen by others in a very different time.  UIC’s academic direction must be a matter of our own choosing and design.

The  Phase II document will be submitted to the chancellor, the provost, and the Senate before the start of the Spring 2011 semester. It should represent a more detailed and reasoned version of the Phase I document. The Phase II document is to serve as a Strategic Thinking document and an important prelude to a full and renewed academic strategic plan for UIC.

Timeline

Membership

Updates

Information Gathering

View samples of the instruments being used by the Academic Directions Task Force to collect information:

 


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