Study advocates research focus at U

Brady Averill

A Minnesota higher education study urged the University to focus more on its research to make it more globally competitive.

“We have in our past had higher education lead,” said Rondi Erickson, co-chairwoman of the study. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t have it in our future.”

The study, conducted by the Citizens League, was presented to the Senate Higher Education Budget Division on Thursday. The Citizens League is a nonpartisan policy group.

The Citizens League said the University should focus more on its research by getting additional state funding.

Because the University is the only public research institution in Minnesota, it should be funded by state dollars and matched by the private sector, according to the study.

Donna Peterson, University associate vice president for government relations, said she is happy the report emphasizes the University’s role as the only public research institution in the state.

The University’s 2006-07 two-year budget proposal includes $18.5 million for research and technology.

Sean Kershaw, Citizens League president, said the University’s competitive advantage is in research.

“We’ve got a great institution,” he said. “(The study) does not mean the University is not doing a good job.”

Higher Education Budget Division Chairwoman Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St.Paul, said that to move forward, she hopes Gov. Tim Pawlenty will consider the league’s recommendations for his education policy bill.

Though the governor asked the league to conduct the study, Kershaw said Pawlenty doesn’t have to approve the findings.

Kershaw said he believes Pawlenty will consider some of the recommendations, which include increasing the University’s focus on research and development through additional state funding.

“I think he’s going to focus on accountability Ö and I think he’s said there will be more money for research,” Kershaw said.