Campus News

Board of Trustees Discusses How UK Can Continue Ascent Among Major Institutions of Higher Learning

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 1, 2011) -- Continuing the University of Kentucky's ascent among the ranks of the country's premier public research institutions will require new strategies and investments in undergraduate education, aging living and learning facilities in the core of campus, and attention to faculty and staff compensation issues.

Those are the key findings of the University Review Committee, appointed by UK President Eli Capilouto this summer to analyze the institution's progress over the past 10 years and make recommendations for areas of improvement.

The committee's report was reviewed today during the first day of a two-day retreat of the UK Board of Trustees. The board also spent several hours in discussions on a broad range of topics, with the goal of providing counsel to the president as he and the campus continue to discuss the future direction of the institution.

"Since 1997, UK has committed itself to becoming an institution defined by academic excellence, world-class research and vigorous engagement in communities across Kentucky. To that end, we have made undeniable progress toward each of those laudable goals," said Hollie Swanson, chair of the University Review Committee and UK's Senate Council. "However, we recognize that there remains significant work to be done to enable UK to realize its full potential."

The 12-member committee, composed of faculty and staff leaders, made six key recommendations to Capilouto and the board, including:

•    Establishing as a priority "sustaining and accelerating improvement in the undergraduate experience" at UK. Although significant progress has been made in the last 10 years -- particularly in improving entering ACT scores among freshmen, retention and graduation rates -- UK lags behind 11 peer institutions used in the study in the overall quality of applicants and continues to lose too many students before they graduate, compared to top schools nationally.

       As part of that effort, the committee -- reviewing what other institutions have done nationally -- recommended expanding UK's Honors Program, increasing scholarships for both merit and need-based aid and improving the residential housing experience, among other things.

•   Renewing the university's physical infrastructure, with a focus on the campus core. The committee recommends a multi-year improvement plan be initiated as soon as possible as the core of campus -- classroom space and residence halls, particularly -- largely consists of buildings 40 years or older.

      Specifically, the committee recommended improving campus housing, expanding and innovating classroom space for 21st century learning and continuing to expand research infrastructure.

•   Identifying colleges where faculty salaries to ensure that high-quality faculty are recruited and retained as part of the effort to enhance the undergraduate educational experience. Too many colleges, the review committee concluded, have made only limited progress toward the goal of achieving salaries that are at 90 percent of those at benchmark institutions.

•   Developing a course of action to promote "innovative strategies to strengthen research, graduate education, clinical activities and engagement." UK's unique breadth -- one of only seven universities in the country to have the full complement of graduate and professional programs on one campus -- creates opportunities for greater interdisciplinary research and service.

•   Putting in place a process to "clarify strategic priorities and align resources accordingly. UK, the report states, has pockets of excellence and areas of strength, which should be targeted for additional investment over a sustained period of time. Creating those levels of investment may require finding alternative revenue sources and establishing performance-based incentives for continued funding, among other strategies.

•   Reviewing staff salaries, which lag in many areas behind local and regional marketplace levels. Part of that process should include a review of current human resource management to ensure improvements in processes and policies to maximize recruitment and retention of staff, the review committee concluded.

"The outstanding work by the Review Committee provides a deep and thoughtful overview of our considerable progress in recent years as well as the challenges and the opportunities ahead as we continue our ascent among the premier institutions in America," Capilouto said. "Now, we as a campus must discern how to turn recommendations into realities, if we are to fulfill our mission in service to the Commonwealth."

On Sunday, board members will tour campus facilities in the academic core of campus and continue their discussions.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Jay Blanton, (859) 699-0041,