The Graduate School - Like a Phoenix From the Ashes?
“Recommendations on the Oversight and Support of Graduate
Education at the University of Minnesota”
April 24, 2009
Based on conversations within the University community, as well as examination of administrative structures for education at peer institutions, the committee concluded that a strong, central administrative entity is essential for oversight and support of quality graduate programs. At most universities this central entity is a Graduate School or a combined Graduate School and Office of Research.
The committee considered three possible organizational structures for administering graduate education at the University of Minnesota. The first of these is an Office of Graduate Education, led by a Vice Provost and Dean, and administratively housed within the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, as proposed in the February 9 restructuring plan. The second possibility is a recombination of the Graduate School with the Office of the Vice President for Research, led by a Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. Finally, the third possibility is a streamlined version of the existing Graduate School, henceforth called the “Graduate College” to differentiate it from the current Graduate School.
In discussing these possibilities, the committee decided not to recommend a combined Graduate School and Office of the Vice President for Research. The committee reasoned that the current Office of the Vice President for Research has done an excellent job of focusing attention on critical research-related matters such as technology transfer, regulatory issues, and expanded research opportunities, and the additional work associated with management of graduate education would inevitably detract from these efforts. In addition, it would probably be necessary to appoint a senior associate dean to oversee graduate education activities (as is done, for example, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Pennsylvania State University), so the leader of the office (the Vice President and Dean) would be more involved with research matters than with graduate student education.
The committee does recommend, however, that certain current activities of the Graduate School most related to the research function of the University, including the Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship program and McKnight Awards be moved to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
The committee is divided on the question of whether the central entity responsible for oversight of graduate education at the University of Minnesota should be an Office of Graduate Education or a Graduate College (as defined above). In both cases the operations would be led by a Vice Provost and Dean who reports to the Provost and is responsible for oversight and leadership of issues related to graduate education. In the case of an Office of Graduate Education, however, the operation would be an administrative unit, parallel in structure to the existing Office of Undergraduate Education, and not an academic unit comparable to other colleges and professional schools. Resolving this issue will require University-wide consultation. While the distinction might seem minor, some committee members (and many people in the University community) feel strongly that the presence of a Graduate College (School) gives graduate education at the University of Minnesota a more recognizable identity among peer institutions. Other members of the committee believe that the name and reporting structure are less important than the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the unit responsible for oversight of graduate education functions.
Regardless of the administrative structure adopted for graduate education at the University of Minnesota, the committee recommends that a strong component of faculty and student governance be maintained. Faculty and student governance is particularly important in relation to matters of program oversight and review, policy, and allocation of student and faculty fellowships. Either structure, however, will need to be efficient and accountable in delivering excellent graduate education. While the Graduate College/Office will need to be more flexible and streamlined than the current Graduate School, the committee recommends that experienced Graduate School staff should be employed in the new unit.
This report is quite remarkable, given the original charge: to implement OurCEO's decision for engulfment of the Graduate School by OurProvost's office.
I hope that OurCEO and OurProvost will think very carefully about these recommendations and the comments that they are certain to elicit. The original charge and the lack of proper consultation were a mistake on the part of our administration for which they have never so much as apologized.
To go back and do what was originally proposed, at this point, and claim that the consultative requirement has been met would be a classic example of a Pyrrhic victory.