U Of I To Start Department Reviews At Urbana Campus
A University of Illinois Administrator says a series of department reviews are intended to look at what has being done well, and places for academic improvement.
Stig Lanesskog, the U of I’s Associate Provost for Strategic Planning and Assessment, said the plan to examine all 80 academic departments on the Urbana campus differs from the ‘Stewarding Excellence’ initiative launched in 2010 to find efficiencies and cost savings.
He said the process will start with each department performing a self-evaluation, and then an external review from experts at other universities.
“That will ultimately lead into an agreed-upon set of initiatives for every department," he said. "The progress on those initiatives will be part of the discussions during the annual budget and annual review process that occurs with every college each year."
The reviews are part of the U of I’s new campus strategic plan. The goal is to examine all 80 academic departments on an 8-year cycle, or roughly ten per year.
The effort will start this year with a pilot project that will look at departments, including sociology, mechanical engineering, and agricultural and consumer economics.
Lanesskog said discussions about program reviews have gone on for a couple of years, through a committee made up some of the Urbana campus deans and faculty.
The first recommendations for budget cuts and savings are coming out for the University of Illinois' largest campus.
Interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter said the Stewarding Excellence@Illinois program yielded ideas from 17 areas of campus. On Tuesday, Easter revealed the next steps in three of those areas, including information technology services. He said efforts like streamlining communication services and consolidating server rooms will cost money in the short term but bring several million dollars in long-term savings.
"If you have a server room in a college or even in a department, someone has to tend to it and there have to be environmental controls like heating and air conditioning systems at work," Easter said. "And getting all that consolidated where it's appropriate...should result in some significant savings over time."
Two other reports involve re-integrating graduate college admissions into the registrar's office and having the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics absorb more of the cost of athletic scholarships. Currently the DIA relies on tuition waivers for full and partial scholarships - but starting next year, the University will provide 100-thousand dollars less in waivers each year over five years.
Easter said the U of I already contributes less than most schools to athletics, which are funded mainly through sports revenues and donations, and he said the DIA already shoulders most of the academic cost.
"They are already putting about $6 million in tuition money into the campus, so it's not as though this is something new," Easter said. "They've been making very substantial contributions through their donors and their ticket sales and other things to the cost of educating student athletes."
Easter says individual colleges are also being charged with reviewing and reducing their costs.