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Ohio State University logo Academic Plan

2006 Update

2005 Update

2004 Update

2003 Update

Past Updates


Academic Plan Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Executive Summary
  3. The Ohio State University Vision
  4. Setting the Stage: Context and Strategies for the Academic Plan
  5. Strategies and Initiatives:
    1. Build a World-Class Faculty
    2. Develop Academic Programs that Define Ohio State as the Nation's Leading Public Land-Grant University
    3. Improve the Quality of the Teaching and Learning Environment
    4. Enhance and Better Serve the Student Body
    5. Create a More Diverse University Community
    6. Help Build Ohio's Future
  6. Facilitating Actions:
    1. Obtain Increased State Support
    2. Improve the Organization and Delivery of Instruction
    3. Increase Organizational Flexibility
    4. Improve the Faculty Work Environment
  7. Continuing Activities
  8. Resources
  9. The Academic Scorecard
  10. Print Out The Academic Plan (pdf file)
  11. Create A Diverse University Community

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 journey?
  • 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 than ever.

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.

Student Experience

  • 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.

Campus Diversity

  • 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 compensation.

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 academic excellence.

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 engine."

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 populations.

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 effectiveness.

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 institutions. Specifically:

  • 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.

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