Study releases research-university report

by Tiff Clements

The University will need to keep on course with its strategic positioning plan to surpass peer schools and become a top three research institution by the measures of a recent report.

The Center for Measuring University Performance published its 2006 report on top American research universities last week. The report didn’t name an overall No. 1 university, instead quantifying success based on nine indicators.

The report compared annual fundraising, total research and development expenditures, faculty awards and undergraduate admission test scores at the University to other schools.

According to the report, which uses data from 2004 and 2005, the University again ranked in the top 25 public research universities in eight of nine measurements, ranking 30th in undergraduate ACT/SAT scores.

Provost E. Thomas Sullivan said in a statement that the impact of the University’s realignment plan, set into motion in 2005, isn’t shown in the report.

“We’re doing very well and we’re strongly positioned for future improvements,” he said. “With the strides made in strategic positioning, we will see results in the upcoming years on these measures.”

Sullivan added that the report reflects the research advances and funding increases at universities across the country.

“The competition is getting more intense,” he said. “Although we’ve shown consistent and steady improvement in most of these indicators, our challenge is keeping up with the competition.”

Despite an increase of more than $15 million in fundraising since the last report, the University held its fourth-place position in fundraising for public universities, its highest ranking.

Martha Douglas is the spokeswoman for the University of Minnesota Foundation, the on-campus organization responsible for soliciting donations from alumni and community members. She said she expects to see the University’s strategic positioning plan impact fundraising.

“Donors do seem to be motivated by the University’s goal,” she said. “And more than that, they’re motivated by what the University stands for in terms of research and helping students.”

Douglas said the report shows that gift seeking is also subject to the intense competition between research universities.

“What we’re seeing is that it just keeps getting more competitive,” she said.

Douglas said competing can be difficult when other institutions are in the midst of large fundraising efforts.

“There are 12 universities that have campaigns going on with goals of $2 billion or more,” she said. “Whenever a school has a large campaign going on like that, they attract large gifts.”

Though the Metrics and Measurements Task Force recommended using the elements of this report as a basic outline in 2006, no criteria exists to measure the University’s strategic positioning progress.