Setting the Stage: Context and Strategies for the Academic Plan
The Ohio State University is a major public comprehensive teaching and
research university with strong core values and high aspirations. We have
a bold new vision. To realize that vision, we are calling for an investment
in the range of $750 million in new and reallocated resources over the
next five years. This total is in addition to funds already committed
in continuing services and previously identified capital projects. It
depends upon enhanced state allocations, increased federal support for
our research, continued success in raising private funds, and our commitment
to a new spirit of entrepreneurial endeavors.
With this vision, and supported by such resources, we have the potential
to improve significantly. We can better serve our students, faculty, staff,
community, and state through even more effective research, teaching, and
service. We can achieve the goals in our vision statement. In short, we
can become one of the world's truly great universities.
This Academic Plan - the first iteration of what will be an ongoing
planning process - is designed to launch us toward our ambitious goals.
In this section of the plan, we address the following questions:
- Why does Ohio need a truly great teaching and research university?
- What do we mean by "academic excellence?"
- How far are we from that ideal?
- What challenges must we overcome to attain our goals?
- What are the internal and external factors that will influence our
- And, finally, what are our core strengths?
Why Does Ohio Need a Great University?
For centuries, civilization has depended upon universities for a rich
flow of ideas, innovation, and graduates from a wide diversity of disciplines
- from the humanities and social sciences to physical sciences, technology,
and the professions. These intellectual and human resources have long
been vital to Ohio's social, economic, and civic success. They remain
so today, when the need for ideas, innovation, and graduates is greater
A top-tier university will be a center of excellence for the very best
high school graduates - providing a broad, diverse population of students
with access to a rich campus experience and offering lifelong learning
opportunities to traditional and non- traditional students alike. It will
also be a center of excellence for graduate and professional education,
research, and scholarship - creating knowledge and innovation that fundamentally
improve learning and the way people live. It will excel in the arts and
sciences, dynamically enhancing the way our graduates understand and experience
their world. And it will be a land-grant university that serves Ohio citizens
in a multiplicity of useful ways.
One very important role for Ohio State is to spur Ohio's economic growth.
Increasingly, our nation's most dynamic economies - areas such as Silicon
Valley - are connected to great research universities. In writing about
our nation's most economically successful regions, The New York Times
said that, "If there is one never-absent factor at work, it is the proximity
of a research university shifting from ivory tower to revving economic
engine." Ohio needs such a "revving economic engine" to succeed in the
21st century Information Age economy - a university that spawns innovation,
generates new technologies and ideas, and produces talented graduates
for successful commercial enterprises.
The university we envision will transfer knowledge and ideas to boost
the state's fortunes. It will also help meet the state's need for ever-larger
numbers of workers in such disciplines as biotechnology, information technology,
and other high-growth fields and critical professions. It will prepare
Ohio citizens to govern themselves effectively and to lead satisfying
and rewarding lives. And since Ohio is irreversibly linked to the global
economy, the University will prepare its graduates to live and work in
a socially and economically diverse world.
The issue is not whether Ohio will continue to have a large, academically
diverse state university that educates thousands of its residents. Clearly,
it will. The issue is whether Ohio will have a truly great university,
the kind of top-tier university that Ohio and its people need and deserve.
We are determined that it will.
What Is Academic Excellence?
The sine qua non of a great university is academic excellence, as measured
by the quality of the research, scholarship, and graduates it produces
along with their collective impact on the larger society. To be a great
university, the prevailing culture must demand excellence in all endeavors.
That excellence can only be achieved when all parts of the University
- administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni - are committed
to the highest standards of performance.
In today's world, academic excellence requires elements and experiences
beyond those traditionally associated with universities. For example,
an excellent education today requires an understanding of diversity and
how diversity can enrich our learning and our lives. It also requires
an understanding of how theory and practice meet, an understanding that
can be enhanced through a rich array of service, outreach, and partnership
opportunities. Academic excellence also requires state-of-the-art infrastructure
and a talented and highly motivated staff.
How Far Are We From Our Ideal?
To create a plan that enables The Ohio State University to become an
academically excellent institution, we need to assess where we stand today
- comparing our current position with our peers, including a number of
aspirational peers. These nine benchmark Research I universities - Arizona,
Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State, Texas, UCLA, Washington, and
Wisconsin - were selected for their general comparability. The following
brief snapshot of Ohio State's current position in selected key areas
was compiled from a variety of sources, including Strategic Indicators
2000 prepared by the University's Office of Strategic Analysis and
Planning and the Research Commission Report.
While some of these statements underscore the rigorous challenge before
us, the path to excellence must begin with a candid acknowledgement of
our current position. In no way does any particular current ranking detract
from the outstanding record of accomplishment that The Ohio State University
has compiled over the years - nor the high quality and quest for continuous
improvement that distinguishes it today. We should also note that no ranking
system exists for some of our most outstanding academic programs.
Academic Quality and Scholarship
- The most recent NRC rating (1992) placed nine Ohio State programs
in the Top 25, tying us for the last position among our benchmark universities.
In its most recent report on selected academic areas, U.S. News &
World Report rated four Ohio State academic Ph.D. programs in the
Top 25, ranking us eighth among benchmark institutions. (The four programs
are Chemistry, Physics, Political Science, and Sociology.) In professional
graduate programs, we fare somewhat better and approach the middle of
the pack among our benchmark universities.
- We rank poorly in undergraduate student pre-college preparation levels
relative to our benchmark universities. While entering classes are gaining
in strength year by year - average freshman ACT scores have risen from
under 23 to almost 25 since 1995 - incremental improvement will become
more difficult as we progress.
- Graduate applicants and enrolled graduate students score above the
national average. Yet even in some strong departments, Ohio State appears
less able than some leading peers to attract graduate students from
highly ranked undergraduate programs.
- Though absolute amounts of federal research dollars have increased
for Ohio State and the benchmark universities, our portion of federal
research dollars is below that of the benchmark universities. Overall,
we lag benchmark institutions on virtually all key measures of sponsored-research
success. However, we are moving steadily up the scale in industry-funded
research, where we now rank fifth among U.S. universities.
- Despite recent improvements, we remain well below the mean of benchmark
schools in publications and citations as well as patents and licenses.
- Ohio State is beginning to close the gap in freshman retention rate
with the benchmark universities. However, the gap between the six-year
graduation rate at Ohio State and its benchmark schools grew from 10
percent in 1996 to 14 percent in 1997 and remained there in 1999. This
reflects classes admitted in the early 1990s and highlights the time
it takes to register progress.
- Although our record has improved and compares favorably to most benchmark
institutions, we are not satisfied with our progress. For example, we
attract fewer underrepresented minority students than we would like,
and retention and graduation rates for these students are low relative
to the University's overall statistics.
- While we have a higher proportion of women faculty than our benchmark
universities and are substantially better at attracting new faculty
from under- represented minority groups, there has been little change
in our percentage representation since 1990. The reason is that our
turnover rate is too high.
- Staff diversity across all categories is close to the benchmark mean,
although minority representation in executive positions lags the benchmark
mean. The percentage of women and ethnic minorities among professional
staff has remained relatively constant since 1990.
Outreach and Engagement/Community Service
- The Ohio State University Extension represents a $58 million annual
commitment to Ohio's agriculture and natural resources, community development,
family and consumer services, and 4-H Youth Development. We also make
significant contributions to Ohio through our $800 million investment
in healthcare delivery services and our growing support of Ohio's public
school system. In short, we maintain one of the nation's best land-grant
traditions, which continues to be a source of great strength and
leadership for the University.
- While strengthening our work in these traditional areas, we need to
bring a similar sense of commitment and leadership to issues that greatly
challenge Ohio's urban communities in the 21st century - issues such
as P-12 education, economic development, and community renewal.
What Challenges Must We Overcome?
In summary, we are far from our ideal. Today, Ohio State is perceived
as having great athletics and good, but not outstanding, academics. We
are viewed as big and bureaucratic but with a strong spirit, particularly
among alumni. Allowing for many exceptions to such gross generalizations,
that perception is fairly close to the mark. So where do we start?
Any review of the comparative data makes it clear that our focus must
be on building academic excellence. For while the University needs to
continuously improve in many areas, we will never be a truly great university
without dramatically enhancing the reality and perception of the teaching
and learning and research and scholarship we do - and without the service
activities that flow from our excellence in these endeavors.
Although much has been accomplished in recent years, our academic reputation
has not appreciably improved. The 20-10 Plan is designed to move Ohio
State into the top-tier of America's public research universities by the
year 2010, with 10 programs ranked in the top 10 in their respective disciplines
and 20 programs ranked in the top 20. This is a bold objective and the
essential starting point of our plan. It is an important benchmark in
reaching our ultimate goal.
In addition, we will not succeed without explicitly defining expectations
for other Ohio State colleges, schools, and departments that make significant
contributions to the University - even if not targeted for the initial
round of investment. The profiles of leading universities reflect strength
that is broad and deep - not simply in a few disciplines but throughout
the institution. They also offer market-competitive compensation for their
faculty and staff. We must also recruit and maintain the finest possible
faculty and staff and provide faculty and staff members with competitive
We must also upgrade the achievement level of our undergraduate student
body. As already noted, our six-year graduation rate lags our benchmark
institutions. So does the preparation level of our incoming students,
although we have made real progress in that measure over recent years.
Finally, there is strong support for improving the University infrastructure,
with particular attention to the appearance of the campus and the cleanliness
and quality of maintenance of campus buildings. We must challenge ourselves
to create a campus environment that contributes to and is consistent with
What Factors Will Influence Our Progress?
The Academic Plan is a product not only of our vision and aspirations,
but also of the environment in which we operate. This environment includes
broad economic and societal trends as well as the pressures, opportunities,
and resource constraints that confront higher education today. Together
with the actions of benchmark universities, these forces help define how
the University can best achieve its objectives.
1. Macro Trends
The Information Age economy. By Information Age economy measures,
Ohio does not fare well. It ranks 32nd in the creation of high-tech jobs,
29th in the number of high-growth companies, 29th in venture capital investment,
and 28th in Internet use. The state has been ranked 33rd overall in its
path to the new economy. This may explain why Ohio's personal income ranking
has declined from sixth in 1960 to 22nd today and why, over the last 20
years, Ohio's economy has grown more slowly than the total U.S. economy.
Successful Information Age economies uniformly rely upon top-tier research
universities. Conclusion: Ohio State must help the state transition to
the Information Age economy by becoming the state's "revving economic
Globalization and demographics. America is becoming much more
global and diverse, requiring employees with greater knowledge of other
countries and cultures along with greater language capabilities. In addition,
America's demographic composition is changing fast. By 2020, there will
be 10 percent fewer whites and 30 percent more non- whites in the U.S.
work force. By 2050, the Caucasian population will drop to around 50 percent.
Ohio State has made some but not enough progress in its diversity and
international initiatives. Conclusion: Ohio State must become more diverse
so we can prepare our students for success in this more diverse nation
and must enhance and coordinate our international studies and programs
to prepare students for a more global economy.
Urbanization. In 1900, almost 40 percent of the U.S. population
lived on farms. By the end of the century, the figure stood at less than
two percent. Today, 20 percent of the nation's farms produce 80 percent
of our food output. Ohio State's agricultural outreach is exceptional.
We are moving to make similar contributions in other broad areas. Conclusion:
We must expand our land-grant mission to serve urban as well as rural
Technology. No change factor is more evident than the continuing
and ever-more- rapid growth of technology, which affects not only what
is taught but how, e.g. online learning. While this is not an area of
current strength at Ohio State, we must help our students - whatever their
field of study - become fully conversant with the latest available technology.
We cannot be a great university without making major progress in this
area. Conclusion: We must equal or surpass our benchmark institutions
in the use of technology for teaching, learning, research, and overall
Continuous and rapid change. Today's continuous and rapid change
affects all institutions but is particularly challenging for universities,
which are better structured to respect tradition, conserve established
areas of excellence, and adopt proven changes than to move quickly and
flexibly to seize opportunities. Our peers are beginning to adapt to this
new environment, and we must not be left behind. Conclusion: We must accelerate
our decision-making process, become receptive to more innovative ideas
and partnerships, and make organizational and process changes that will
enhance our effectiveness.
2. Funding Realities
While reaching our goal is not just a matter of resources, it will be
impossible to succeed without additional resources - along with continuously
enhanced efficiency and effectiveness, greater productivity, and an ongoing
reallocation of funds based on current priorities. As the numbers below
indicate, Ohio State receives and spends less per student than our benchmark
- Ohio ranks 42nd nationally in the percentage of budget allocation
to higher education - the lowest per student amount among Big Ten states.
- Our FY2000 annual resident undergraduate tuition and fees total $4,110
- five percent below the average for benchmark institutions. In Ohio,
we rank ninth among 13 public-assisted universities in tuition and fees
- 6.3 percent below the state average although our academic reputation
ranking is well above any other Ohio university.
- State appropriations per student FTE remain barely at 1991 levels
in constant dollars.
- Our overall Total Education and General (E&G) Expenditures are 81
percent of the benchmark average - up from 77 percent in the early 1990s.
- While current fund revenues per student FTE average 20 percent below
the mean for benchmark institutions, we have begun to close the gap
in recent years. The potential exists to reach the benchmark mean by
the middle of this decade.
Ohio is a large and prosperous state that is not supporting its institutions
of higher learning at the level necessary to compete effectively in an
Information Age economy. We need to help the people and leaders of Ohio
better appreciate the many ways that The Ohio State University benefits
the state - and the large additional benefits that could be realized.
What Are Our Core Strengths?
Can we succeed? Is our vision realistic? As challenging as it will be
to reach our goal, the quest is not quixotic. To be counted among the
top ten public research universities in the nation is achievable. For
Ohio State can rightly claim great strengths in many areas, strengths
that it can leverage to its advantage. These include:
- Several programs that already qualify as "top tier";
- A dedicated faculty, many of whom are internationally renowned;
- A vibrant and strong student body that improves every year;
- A talented and committed staff;
- A comprehensive array of programs with a potential for increased interdisciplinary
research, instruction, and service;
- A large body of alumni whose loyalty and school spirit are unsurpassed;
- Private giving that is a model among public universities;
- An exceptionally strong position within Ohio, where we are the state's
"flagship" university and enjoy a strong level of community support;
- A land-grant tradition that is among the strongest and most effective
in the nation; and
- A pervasive commitment to excellence.
With these strengths, and the initiatives that follow, we can move aggressively
toward our vision of academic excellence.