Letters to the Houston Community

Top Tier Message

June 18, 2008

I am writing to give you a status report of our plans and progress as we move beyond my first 100 days. There is a great deal of progress being made. Since my last letter to you, I have held two leadership meetings, one with the Board of Regents and the other with my vice presidents and deans. Together we have begun to formulate our goals for the University and the System. I have also met with the Houston Legislative Delegation, key leaders in Texas and Washington, as well as the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle, to outline our vision and aspirations.

The Board of Regents approved three key goals for the UH system:

  • National competitiveness - the UH System universities will benchmark themselves on a national level, in order that the City of Houston and the Greater Houston Region be known for having one of the best metropolitan higher education systems in the United States.
  • Student success and access - each of the System universities will make student success its top priority, and commit to providing access to the people of the Greater Houston area and the state.
  • Community advancement - the System universities will engage their community, so that the System may form the engine of social and economic advancement within the state and the region.

All of us are fully committed to the pursuit of excellence that leads to recognition as a top-tier institution. But you might have wondered, “What is a top-tier university and how will we know when we've arrived?”

 There are characteristics that are widely recognized as hallmarks of excellence in top-tier universities. An outstanding learning environment is the foundation of excellence, and we will continue to focus on and enhance the student experience at UH. Here are some brief points that I shared with the Chronicle that I hope better define what it means to be a nationally competitive “top-tier” university:

  • Excellence in research, specifically annual research expenditures of $100 million or more. UH currently has approximately $78 million.
  • Excellence in graduate and undergraduate education – student success – as evidenced by the number of doctorates awarded, average freshman SAT scores, percent of students in top 10 percent of high school class, six-year graduation rates, number of National Merit Scholars and a well developed research culture that engages undergraduate as well as graduate students.
  • Excellence among its faculty, as evidenced by membership in the National Academies, faculty awards reflecting the quality of faculty performance, faculty citations and the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty.
  • Competitive resources and community advancement, as evidenced by levels of alumni giving, size of the university endowment and activities demonstrating partnership with the community.

I hope that when you read this, you will think about how you can be a part of building our future as a top tier nationally competitive public research university. Our community, our state and you deserve it!

Warm regards,
Renu Khator