UC Irvine, only 40 years old and young compared to other research universities, revealed its plans to improve the university and raise its status to become a flagship UC campus. To attain flagship status is to be regarded as the best of its kind, a status that has already been attained by UCLA and UC Berkeley.
A preliminary 10-year plan has already been drawn up, explaining how and in which areas expansion to UCI will occur. The plan is entitled, ‘A Focus on Excellence: A Strategy for Academic Development at UCI through 2014.’
Michael Clark, associate executive vice chancellor of academic planning and professor of English and comparative literature, explained that increasing the student population is one of the plan’s main goals. One of these goals is to increase the graduate student body by 24 percent.
‘UCI’s goal is to grow to 32,000 [by 2014],’ Clark said.
Clark claims that the plan explains the student growth as a gradual process over the next decade, with corresponding improvements in other areas.
‘This student growth should result … in commensurate growth in faculty, staff and physical facilities,’ Clark said.
William Parker, vice chancellor of research, dean of graduate studies and professor of physics, explained that UCI’s goal since its establishment was to reach a flagship status among UC campuses.
‘Our goal has always been to be a flagship [university],’ Parker said.
Increasing professorships is a large part of UCI’s plan to become a flagship university. The draft explains that the recruitment of professors is aimed at ‘expanded hiring at very senior levels, including more distinguished professors, et cetera.’
As stated in the draft, not only will there be more professors at UCI, but professors with more experience. In conjunction with increasing the quality of professors, changes will be made to the admission process for students.
The draft report explains that UCI plans to ‘use selective admissions to improve further the general quality of students, increase diversity and reinforce campus-wide programmatic objectives.’
Another step in achieving flagship status is to increase researching capacity by developing more research centers and institutes, such as a stem-cell center and a center for international studies.
The draft emphasizes the importance of athletics but does not include plans for a football team.
According to the drafts, UCI hopes to ‘build a stronger intercollegiate athletics program while emphasizing scholar athletes and avoiding programs [such as football] that can compromise academic standards and undermine financing for a broad range of other sports programs.’
The plan also outlines the expansion of UCI’s medical program to become a health center for Orange County by developing an on-campus outpatient center equivalent to the size and impact of the UCI Medical Center in Orange.
One advantage to UCI reaching flagship status is that both UCLA and UC Berkeley have just about reached their maximum growth with their present infrastructures. Clark pointed out that UCLA’s student population, according to an October 2003 report, has reached 37,630.
Clark explained that the advantage of a new school like UCI is that for each new student who enrolls in UCI, more money is brought into the school. Since UCLA has essentially reached its student enrollment capacity, it has also reached its money cap; if it were to start a new program, cuts would have to be made to existing programs.
As Clark explained, UCI has not reached this financial cap. This is due to increasing funding from various sources, including student tuition and fees, donations and increased state funding, coupled with increases in state funding from the increased enrollment.
‘When a school is growing, it doesn’t have to cut programs,’ Clark said. ‘The more students [a school has], the more money the state gives.’
Parker explained that a research campus like UCI also receives large research contracts which aid the financing of the 10-year plan.
But Parker noted that despite the increased enrollment, ‘[it is] unlikely that there will be a dramatic increase in state funding.’
Clark explained that the draft was sent to groups like ASUCI and other on-campus groups and academic departments. In addition to these groups, UCI has informed alumni of this 10-year plan and is currently in the process of informing the City of Irvine.
Clark is now waiting for the final report, which he hopes will be published in the spring after revisions have been made.
The executive vice chancellor’s Web site, where this draft report can be viewed, emphasizes that the plan has not yet been finalized.
‘It is only a draft. Most of the issues are presented in very brief form,’ the Web site states. ‘The campus needs to consider if the focus, structure and wording of this document accurately reflect the values of our university and adequately articulate our ambitions.’
Clark expects that the final report will be similar to the existing draft.
‘[There] probably won’t be a lot of changes but it depends on discussions with the faculty, staff and students,’ Clark said.