In the coming years, University of Minnesota students will not only be able to watch Gopher-Cornhusker football games, but they’ll also be able to share in the research and take classes offered by the University of Nebraska.
This increased academic cooperation came not when Nebraska announced it was joining the Big Ten conference June 11, but five days later when the university accepted an invitation to join the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.
The CIC includes all of the Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago. It is designed to encourage academic cooperation between the schools, increase purchasing power and pool resources such as libraries, study abroad programs and courses.
The CIC currently offers about 60 courses from its member schools, including many different languages not offered by most universities. It expects Nebraska to add an additional five courses, CIC Director Barbara McFadden Allen said.
“We looked carefully at Nebraska’s academic and research portfolio and its aspirations and thought that it was consistent with those of the present membership,” University of Minnesota Provost Tom Sullivan said. “The provosts then, having looked at a lot of information, voted unanimously to extend an offer to Nebraska to join the CIC.”
Sullivan said Nebraska fits in with other land grant universities currently in the CIC, sharing similar strengths in agriculture, engineering and technology.
Nebraska has strong ties to the CIC and quickly accepted the invitation, Allen said.
About a third of the tenured faculty at Nebraska received their highest degree from a CIC university.
The group, which has been around since 1958, traditionally follows the membership of the Big Ten, with its last addition being Penn State in 1990.
Some conferences, such as the SEC also have academic counterparts but haven’t been around as long as the CIC.
The Big Ten has not ruled out further expansion but said that 12 teams is a good number and that adding more teams provides challenges. Allen said she sees similar obstacles but that the CIC couldn’t pass on the benefits associated with adding Nebraska.
“I can certainly say it’s difficult to get 12 universities to get together to do the same thing at the same time, no matter what that thing is,” she said. “So you know, 13 or 14 or 15 institutions are harder to manage, but not impossible.”
Nebraska is the 13th member of the CIC. The group has not been seriously approached about membership by any other schools, Notre Dame included.
Allen said the CIC was created to assure that member schools wouldn’t become “football factories,” but rather focused mainly on their academic mission. She said she expects Nebraska to help the CIC continue on this path.
“Today this group of universities does twice as much funded research as the Ivy League, so that’s $6.4 billion in funding research,” Allen said. “And you know, if you looked at that group of universities 50 years ago, I’m not sure you would’ve sat down and said to yourself, ‘Hey, I think they’re going to outperform the Ivy League’ … yet they have.”