President Khator's Letters to the Houston Community

Tier One Progress Report

When I first arrived in Houston two years ago as president and chancellor, I asked our community what my task should be. Your response was clear and unwavering: we must move the University of Houston toward a higher vision, one in which we would not only continue to serve as the principal educational resource for this region, but also to expand into a nationally competitive research institution with world-class aspirations.

In other words, you asked us to transform UH into a Tier-One university.

I'm proud to say that we have been vigorously pursuing that goal, and I am extremely pleased to announce that we are making great progress. The recent passage of Proposition 4, the constitutional amendment that approved potential funding for UH and other qualifying state institutions to reach Tier-One status, is a gratifying indication that the people of Texas understand the importance of our efforts.

As you know, elevating the University of Houston into a Tier-One institution will significantly spur the city's and the state's growth in an increasingly competitive global economy. A recent economic analysis by the Perryman Group, for example, found that if UH and just one other state university achieved Tier-One status, the total impact over the next two decades would be an additional $80 billion in annual output and the creation of more than 300,000 permanent jobs.

Attaining Tier-One status remains a considerable challenge, but we have a reliable roadmap.

To receive financial support from the National Research University Fund (NRUF) created by Proposition 4, UH must meet certain benchmarks determined by the legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Since these benchmarks are closely aligned with criteria generally accepted as "Tier-One" qualifications, meeting these benchmarks moves UH ever closer to its Tier-One destination.

So, what are those benchmarks, and how are we doing?

  • An emerging research university like UH must have at least $45 million in qualified research expenditures for two consecutive years. In FY09, UH had $50 million.
  • More than 200 Ph.D.s must be awarded annually. UH is currently awarding at that level.
  • An institution must have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter or membership in the Association of Research Libraries. We are an ARL member.
  • An institution's endowment must exceed $400 million. Although the stock market has something to say, we currently meet that qualification, thanks to our generous supporters.
  • A freshman class of high quality.
  • A faculty of high quality
  • Graduate programs of high quality

Those last three have not been quantified yet by the Coordinating Board, so we can't determine how we measure up at this point. But, I can say we have been moving boldly ahead toward "high quality" in each of those areas. Student Success has been a pillar of my administration. Specifically, we are increasing the amount of financial aid available to our students, building new residences to more than double the number of students living on campus and enhancing student support services. And, we are also committed to hiring additional faculty who can generate high levels of research funding, attract other premier faculty, and help recruit top graduate students. In particular, we intend to acquire four more "mega-clusters" of talent in the Energy and Health sectors, joining the recent arrival of Dr. Jan-Ake Gustafsson, the world-renowned medical research scientist, and his team.

I'm confident that we can stay on track and meet all the NRUF benchmarks within five years.

Of course, we're not limiting ourselves to those benchmarks, ambitious as they are. We're also in the process of tripling our alumni participation. We currently have under construction or design new buildings that will add more than 2.6 million square feet to the campus - the equivalent of two Minute Maid Parks. That includes our new 75-acre Energy Research Park, where the best minds in the private sector and our public university can tackle the challenges that confront us all. We have also become the newest official member of the Texas Medical Center, which will increase our opportunities to collaborate with the other institutions in that celebrated organization. I'm confident that we can stay on track and meet all the NRUF benchmarks within five years.

All these things - and more - are what's required to be recognized as a Tier-One institution. So, how will we know when that has happened?

For me, I believe we will truly have achieved Tier-One status when the University of Houston is a powerful engine of economic development for Houston and the state, when we are providing globally prepared graduates who are productive leaders in the workforce, and when we are relied on as a hub of innovation for testing new ideas and creating solutions to problems society faces every day. In short, we can have a tremendously positive impact on the quality of life and economic health of our region. That is what a Tier-One institution does, and that is where UH is headed.

With warm regards,

Renu Khator