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Provost announces academic restructuring

by Karen A. Grava - November 7, 2005

Provost Peter J. Nicholls has announced an academic restructuring designed to strengthen academic programs and ensure rigorous academic scrutiny of individual programs.

The plan calls for the strengthening of what are now two small schools and one small college by joining them to larger academic units. The School of Family Studies will become a department within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS); the two academic departments in the School of Allied Health will be moved, one to the Neag School of Education and one to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; and the College of Continuing Studies will become a division reporting to the vice provost for undergraduate education.

“All three of these units make significant contributions to our academic enterprise,” Nicholls says, “but we can make them even more valuable.”

The restructuring, effective July 1, 2006, is being undertaken to achieve consistently high standards across the entire university, he says, rather than to achieve economic savings.

“Quality is our first consideration for the education that we provide here: quality in courses and degrees and in the faculty and staff who support them,” Nicholls says. “In matters of curricular review, promotion, tenure, and reappointment, universities rightly give a great deal of autonomy to the expert, experienced tenured faculty in the schools and colleges. This works well when there is a critical mass of faculty to provide the requisite hierarchy of evaluation. But when a school or college is small, it lacks the critical mass of tenured faculty to provide levels of rigorous academic scrutiny.”

Nicholls says the School of Family Studies does not have enough faculty to be an independent school; nor is it a commonly recognized cohesive discipline, as are schools such as Pharmacy or Nursing. Family Studies will therefore become a department within CLAS. Students will continue their degree programs unimpeded, there will be no layoffs of faculty or staff, and the provost will work in consultation with the dean of CLAS to renovate facilities and to provide the additional faculty lines necessary to reduce the high student-faculty ratio.

The School of Allied Health is also too small to be an independent school and is not a commonly recognized cohesive discipline, Nicholls says. The Department of Physical Therapy will move to the Neag School of Education, where it can benefit from the levels of review of a larger school and work in synergy with the kinesiology and special education programs. The remaining faculty, as a department, will join the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the same reasons: the level of review of a larger school and the synergy of faculty with similar interests, such as those in nutritional sciences and pathobiology.

The College of Continuing Studies, which does not have a tenured faculty, will become a division reporting to the vice provost for undergraduate education and regional campus administration.

The new reporting structure will ensure that the Bachelor of General Studies program undergoes rigorous curricular review by tenured faculty. Nicholls says the program “not only will continue, but will be strengthened and enhanced, particularly at the regional campuses.”

Summer and intersession programs will become the responsibility of the vice provost for undergraduate education, who will work with the vice provost for enrollment management on recruitment, enrollment, registration, and other functions.

“The academic goal is to offer programs throughout the year to make it as easy as possible for students to complete their degrees in four years,” he says.

Non-credit course offerings will be reviewed in the context of non-credit offerings at Connecticut State University and the community colleges, “in order to see how UConn can best meet the needs of our state,” he says.

“All of these changes will also result in more efficient use of resources through elimination of administrative and programmatic duplication and through greater opportunities for synergy among faculty with similar interests,” he says. “Some of these changes will result in welcome savings, but some will not. The driving force behind the changes is quality, not financial considerations.”

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