North Texas Daily

Multiple definitions to ‘tier-one’ status

Multiple definitions to ‘tier-one’ status

March 03
03:46 2016

Adalberto Toledo | Senior Staff Writer


University president Neal Smatresk announced UNT’s ascent to “tier-one” as a research university in February, but while it means a lot for the university in terms of national recognition, there are many criteria for being tier-one.

Smatresk announced the milestone with a press release and a short video. The headline read “Carnegie Classification lists UNT among Tier One research universities in latest report,” but the institution’s definitions do not include the term “tier-one.”

UNT was previously ranked under “higher research activity.” The latest upgrade lifted UNT to “highest research activity,” thus the “tier-one” claim. Provost Finley Graves said Carnegie doesn’t disclose why a university gets upgraded in order to prevent universities from gaming the system.

There are several ways to move up in the classifications. One is awarding more than 20 research doctoral degrees the year the people at Carnegie update their rankings. UNT granted 270 in 2015, and has met the minimum requirement for the “basic” classification’s R1 doctoral university since 2000.

But there is more than one definition for tier one.

Tier-one institutions can also be those classified in the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings. None of the Texas universities that recently got the Carnegie Classification — UNT, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas and Texas Tech University — are ranked by the U.S. News & World Report’s top 50.

Universities that have more than $100 million in research spending may also be classified as research universities.

Of the four universities added recently, only UTD and Tech have spent at least that much. UNT falls short, having spent about $31 million in 2015. Since 2006, UNT has increased its research spending 36.4 percent over nine years in an attempt to reach the $100 million mark, according to the research and economic development office’s reports and statistics.

Tom McCoy, who oversees the research and economic development office, could not be reached for comment.

Another possible definition for tier-one is being listed as one of the Association of American Universities, a group of 62 top research universities in the United States and Canada. None of the Texas universities that received the Carnegie Classification are on that list either.

Only two public Texas universities made it on the list: University of Texas and Texas A&M University.

Graves said even the state of Texas has a definition for tier-one and, among other things, it requires a certain amount of research spending.

“We are consciously working toward that goal,” he said.

Texas approved a constitutional amendment implementing the National Research University Fund in November 2009. About $500 million was distributed among burgeoning research universities to meet certain benchmarks for top-tier status.

To be considered top-tier in the eyes of the state, a university must award at least 200 doctoral degrees, allocate more than $45 million in restricted research spending and have endowment assets — or the money the state provides a public university — of more than $400 million. UNT meets standards regarding doctoral awards, but falls short of the $45 million and $400 million mark.

Graves said UNT has not yet met the state’s required research output, but is already feeling the effects of the classification.

“I can give you one concrete example,” Graves said. “We were talking to one person about coming to UNT as a faculty member, and she had already interviewed at another university. Then the people interviewing her told her that North Texas had become tier-one and we became her first choice.”

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