December 6, 2018
Dear faculty colleagues,
UT Austin is fortunate to have many graduate programs ranked among the best in the nation. This is an accomplishment that is due in large part to outstanding faculty members and exceptionally talented graduate students. There is much to be proud of, and now is the perfect opportunity for the campus community to look to the future and position the university as a preeminent leader of graduate education in the 21st century.
In recent decades, the landscape of graduate education has changed dramatically in response to a shifting academic labor market, rising costs, the availability of new technologies, and evolving academic fields. Leading research universities across the United States are engaged in a national dialogue about the role and importance of our graduate education and how we can best prepare students for an evolving workforce. Among the most pressing issues facing the university is graduate student support.
During the past decade, UT Austin has fallen behind its peer universities in the financial support it provides graduate students, a situation that increasingly impedes student recruitment, retention, and completion. UT Austin has 49 graduate programs ranked in the top 10. If the university is to remain a preeminent leader in graduate education, we must take a holistic, strategic look at our programs and find ways to competitively support our students.
Task Force Overview
Toward that end, we are writing to announce the creation of the Graduate Education Task Force, a group of faculty members and graduate students who will explore and recommend strategic solutions for enhancing graduate education at UT Austin.
The task force will formally begin its work in January 2019. We are pleased to announce that Daina Ramey Berry, the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History, has accepted a three-year associate dean appointment in the Graduate School to coordinate this effort. The task force itself will be led by a yet-to-be-named faculty chair. The task force will be charged with providing its report by the end of 2019.
Because no single approach can address the variation of the more than 200 graduate programs on campus, the task force will convene internal subcommittees to focus on disciplinary subsets that share common characteristics. The end goal will be to have a suite of recommendations that departments and faculty members can use to develop a customized implementation plan for their graduate programs.
As part of this effort, the university will commit significant one-time resources to help departments increase graduate student support based on task force recommendations, including up to $10 million during the first academic year of implementation and additional one-time funds during subsequent years. It is anticipated that much of the one-time funding invested by the university will provide immediate increases to graduate stipends in key areas.
Excellence in graduate education is one of our top priorities, and we thank you in advance for your support and engagement. Please feel free to share your thoughts with us as we move forward on this important initiative.
Executive Vice President and Provost
Mark J. T. Smith
Dean of the Graduate School
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs