Regents adopt metric in quest for world eminence

by Matt Graham

University administration has found a set of criteria to measure progress toward becoming one of the world’s top three public research institutions. The Board of Regents decided on a system developed by the University of Florida.

Al Sullivan, vice president for system administration, spoke to the Board of Regents on Thursday at a work session centering on how to measure progress.

Florida’s system measures universities in eight categories: doctorates granted, national academy members, post-doctoral appointees, total research expenditures, federal research expenditures, endowment assets, annual giving and median SAT/ACT scores.

Sullivan said the University has ranked in the top 25 nationwide in all of Florida’s categories except for median SAT/ACT scores.

Regent David Larson said he worries the University may start putting too much emphasis on standardized test scores.

“I think there’s possibly a conflict between SAT/ACT scores and diversity,” he said.

Regent Steven Hunter agreed, saying the University needs to remain accessible to the public.

“I’m way more concerned with what a person knows when they leave the University, not what they know when they come in,” Hunter said.

But Regent Peter Bell said test scores can be a useful indicator of how students will do once they are admitted to the University, and said concerns about cultural bias in the tests are unfounded.

“I don’t want to change or lower the bar because certain demographic groups can’t get in,” he said.

But while there was some disagreement on what to measure, the board agreed on the need for setting and measuring specific goals.

University President Bob Bruininks said no measurement system will be perfect, but said he likes the Florida system because it is fairly comprehensive and the University already scores relatively well in its measurements.

Several board members said the University needs to find a way to measure, not only the students and resources that come into the school, but what graduates do once they leave.

“We need to find a way to measure how much impact we had,” Larson said.

There was also a second work session, where Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy detailed ways the University can better profit from the intellectual property it develops.

Mulcahy said there has been a tenfold increase nationwide in intellectual property profits within higher education, and the University has been one of the most successful schools.

But he said the University could have several billion dollars more if it had capitalized on the technology it helped to develop, including the Gopher technology that led to Netscape.

Mulcahy said the University needs to harness the talent it already has to create five startup companies a year.

Frank Cerra, senior vice president of the Academic Health Center, said the University’s Center for Drug Design gives it a unique opportunity because the most profitable intellectual properties in the foreseeable future will come from the medical field.