Twelve graduate programs at MU will be closed after a nearly yearlong review by a university task force charged with evaluating academic programs.
Of those 12 programs, seven will merge with existing programs to form new programs, one will be redeveloped to encompass a broader curriculum and the remaining four will be closed completely.
The announcement was made Wednesday morning in a news release from MU.
Although the academic review by the Task Force on Academic Program Analysis, Enhancement and Opportunities was developed amid an ongoing budget crisis, its primary purpose was not financial, said MU spokesman Christian Basi.
Instead, the goal was to ensure the school is adequately responding to the changing “needs of the state of Missouri,” Basi said.
Chancellor Alexander Cartwright told representatives from the media the university wants programs to be innovative and responsive to contemporary challenges.
“We need to refresh our programs,” Cartwright said. “Things change. What we’re trying to do is think about how to prepare our students better. That really is the goal.”
Merging programs means that students no longer will be able to pursue a degree in the original programs, although some or all of the classes from the original programs may be available in the new program.
Students accepted for the next academic year or already enrolled in the affected programs will be able to finish their degrees, and Cartwright said he expects no faculty or staff members to lose their positions because of the changes “at this time.”
In addition to the 12 programs, one program originally recommended for closure will temporarily stop accepting applications, one will remain unchanged, two departments will be combined, and the rest will be subject to further review.
Programs scheduled for closure
These programs will merge with other programs in the Division of Applied Social Sciences:
- Agricultural Education, Ph.D degree
- Rural Sociology, master’s and Ph.D degrees
This master’s degree will be redesigned to broaden the scope of its curriculum:
- Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences
These four programs will be fully closed:
- Nuclear Engineering, master’s and Ph.D degree
- Nuclear Safeguards Science and Technology, graduate certificate
- Religious Studies, master’s degree
These four will be integrated into a single interdisciplinary degree program:
- Medical Pharmacology and Physiology, Ph.D degree
- Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Ph.D degree
- Nutrition, Ph.D degree
- Pathobiology, Ph.D degree
The program that will temporarily stop accepting applicants:
- Art History & Archaeology, Ph.D degree
Program to remain unchanged
- Applied Mathematics, master’s degree
Two departments will combine, but both doctoral programs will still be offered
- Chemical Engineering, Ph.D degree
- Biological Engineering, Ph.D degree
Programs subject to further review
Programs slated for further review must develop an annual improvement plan until their identified weaknesses have been corrected, according to the news release. Any new programs created as a result of merged programs will also be subject to further review.
- Art History & Archaeology, master’s degree
- Classical Studies, master’s and Ph.D degrees
- Dispute Resolution, LLM degree
- Personal Financial Planning, graduate certificate, master’s, doctoral area of emphasis
- Romance Languages, Ph.D degree
- Center for the Digital Globe, graduate certificate
- Gerontology, graduate certificate
- Lifespan Development, graduate certificate
- American Law, LLM degree
- Industrial Engineering, Ph.D degree
- Food Sciences, Ph.D degree
- Genetics Area Program, Ph.D degree
- Neuroscience, master’s and Ph.D degrees
- Geological Sciences, bachelor of science, bachelor of arts and Ph.D degrees
- History, Ph.D degree
- Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum, master’s and Ph.D degrees
- Sociology, Ph.D degree
- Public Management, graduate certificate
- Organizational Change, graduate certificate
Wednesday’s news release included the announcement of a new College of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, which will emerge from the current Office of Graduate Studies and will be established in 2019.
The college will centralize some administrative tasks, as well as possibly manage and house interdisciplinary programs and certificates, though conversations on specifics will be ongoing, according to Cartwright.
“We always need to have someone who’s constantly thinking about graduate education, graduate scholarship and graduate research, and always thinking about what is best for students’ education and development,” Cartwright said.
The need for such a college was one of the most consistent responses the chancellor received from the campus community during the evaluation process, said Chris Riley-Tillman, faculty fellow for institutional effectiveness in the Office of the Chancellor.
The Wednesday release also noted the need for a regular evaluation process for all programs, which may range from informal conversations about possible improvements to more formal processes like the academic program review.
“Our departments and our units were already thinking about (improvements). We want them to think about these things more regularly, and how they continue to improve,” Cartwright said. “I think it then becomes part of our culture, that we’re just continuously improving.”
In early April 2017, UM System President Mun Choi called for an 8 to 12 percent budget cut and a top-to-bottom review of academic programs. The 17-member Task Force on Academic Program Analysis, Enhancement and Opportunities began the evaluation process for MU at the end of June.
Nearly 40 meetings with members of the campus community were held, as well as an analysis of relevant data, including the number of degrees awarded by each program, average number of applicants and acceptance rate, racial makeup, credit hour cost and productivity.
The task force released its final report in January, which recommended the closure, consolidation and review of dozens of graduate programs — mainly because of low enrollment or low performance in, for example, research productivity.
Since, Cartwright and interim Provost Jim Spain met with deans and campus community members from the highlighted programs. A special meeting was held in early March to receive feedback and concerns from the hundreds of faculty who attended.
Throughout the semester, programs marked for closure in the January report drafted plans to address their identified weaknesses.
Cartwright accepted more than a dozen of the plans, which will continue to be developed through the next academic year, according to Wednesday’s news release.
“This is a signaling to people that, let’s get moving. These are great ideas, they can position us strongly, and we should move on them,” Cartwright said.
After the January report was released, members of the campus community criticized the task force for some of its data, as well as for a lack of transparency in the process.
In late January, the MU chapter of the American Association of University Professors released a statement that expressed concerns about the reliability of data gleaned from Academic Analytics, a company that measures faculty and school productivity. The statement also requested that the task force provide faculty full access to all of its data and time to review it before final decisions were made.
At the special meeting in early March, faculty called for the task force to:
- Allow ample opportunity to correct inaccurate and misleading data.
- Provide a budgetary justification for each recommended closure or merger.
- Produce a transparent set of procedures with a timeline.
The task force released an initial set of data mid-February, and additional data on March 20. On March 7, Cartwright provided a timeline through the end of the semester, and requested that faculty continue to bring him concerns and clarifications by April 9, though he said recently “we continued to engage with deans even beyond that.”
As for the request for budgetary justifications, Cartwright said he’s “much more focused on how we become an exceptional institution.”
“Budget doesn’t drive strategy, strategy drives budget,” he said.
According to the January report, the task force “was aware of the need to make recommendations that would provide some reduction in expenses and increase efficiencies, but we were not provided a specific target related to cost-savings.”
Cartwright did not identify a specific dollar amount that would be saved as a result of the review process.
He did note that the programs developed in response to the review are “potential revenue generators” that will attract more graduate students and, in turn, produce more research.
Although Cartwright acknowledged that the university’s budget crisis is ongoing, he said he sees an end to it within the next two to three years, citing increasing enrollment as one cause for optimism.