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University of Houston - Tier One FAQs

What exactly is “Tier One”?
“Tier One,” “Top Tier” and “Nationally Competitive Research University” are terms used interchangeably to refer to universities known for world-class research, academic excellence, an exceptional student body, and the highest levels of innovation, creativity and scholarship. Because of these accomplishments, these universities enjoy a national “brand,” recognition and prestige.

Who determines if a university is Tier One?
Within the academic community, there are three organizations that are generally accepted as national arbiters of an institution’s rank as a Tier One institution.  They are the Association of American Universities, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Center for Measuring University Performance, which issues Top American Research University (TARU) reports.  Recognition by any of these three is taken as an indication of Tier One status.

Has the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized UH as a Tier One research university?
Yes. In its most recent classification of universities, issued in January 2011, the Carnegie Foundation categorized UH as a Research University with “very high research activity” (RU/VH), the highest classification given to research universities and the equivalent of Tier One status. It joins the University of Texas and Texas A&M as the only public universities in Texas in this top tier.

What is the significance of a Tier One ranking?
It confirms a university’s excellence and will reap economic and educational benefits for the city, the region and the state. Texas has lagged behind other states in the number of Tier One universities – California has nine, New York seven, for example. Increasing the number of Tier One institutions allows Texas to compete more successfully for the best and brightest students and faculty, to spur economic growth, to sustain an educated workforce and attract innovative research. Economists estimate that every $10 million in research expenditures generates more than 300 new jobs and adds more than $8 million to the regional economy.

Didn’t the state legislature pass “Tier One” legislation and the Texas voters approve a constitutional amendment to support it?
Yes, the Legislature passed two bills that provide pathways for UH and six other Texas emerging research universities to become nationally competitive and place themselves in the top tier of public national research universities. In November 2009, statewide voters approved Proposition 4, a constitutional amendment implementing the National Research University Fund (NRUF). Approximately $500 million in a dormant Higher Education Fund was reallocated and, along with other possible contributions to the fund, will be provided to the seven Emerging Research Universities as they meet benchmarks determined by the legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

What are those benchmarks?

  • At least $45 million in restricted research expenditures. In 2010, UH had more than $90 million.
  • Endowment assets of $400 million. In 2011, UH had just over $580 million. 
  • Phi Beta Kappa chapter or membership in the Association of Research Libraries. UH is an ARL member. 
  • At least 200 Ph.D.s awarded annually. UH has averaged more than 200 doctorates for the past three years.
  • The cumulative number of tenured/tenure-track faculty who have achieved distinction as a member of one of the National Academies or are Nobel Prize recipients should be equal to or greater than 5. In 2011, UH faculty include 11 National Academy members and one Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Two other guidelines address freshmen admissions and graduate programs. UH leaders are confident the school will already exceed these standards, or will be able to attain them in a reasonable period of time.

Along with UH, what are the six other Emerging Research Universities attempting to qualify for NRUF support?
Texas Tech, UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas , UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso and the University of North Texas.

Does UH’s Tier One classification by the Carnegie Foundation affect its NRUF status?
There is nothing to indicate its NRUF status will be affected. 

What will the University of Houston do with the NRUF funds?
UH has a commitment to student success and it will continue to invest in ensuring that students have every opportunity to access cutting-edge programs and top quality service. Additionally, it has four major priorities: (a) Energy, (b) Health, (c) Arts, and (d) “Stars” (nationally ranked programs where we already exceed and want to continue to do so). The university will continue to invest in faculty, students, facilities and services in these areas to ensure a world-class environment for education and research.

What is UH’s position regarding other Texas universities achieving top tier status?
We believe that Texas, given the size of its population, must create several additional nationally competitive research universities. Given time and state support, all of the Emerging Research Universities have the capacity to transform themselves into national competitive research universities, or Tier One universities.

Why is UH’s status as a Tier One university relevant to students?
A Tier One (or nationally competitive) university provides a nationally competitive learning environment for its students. We know that even though our graduates work in the Houston region, they compete in the global marketplace and, therefore, their skill set needs to be globally competitive. A Tier One university provides greater opportunities for students to work with world-class faculty in nationally ranked programs and engage in cutting-edge research and learning. Consequently, their degrees have a brand that is nationally recognized and globally respected.

Will student admissions at UH become more selective?
College admission is not about selectivity; it is about academic preparedness. Students who are academically prepared to succeed at UH’s flagship campus will find there is room for them in the university. Not all students, however, will be academically prepared and not all will find the flagship campus the right choice for their interest, aptitude or learning style. Fortunately, UH is a system of four independent universities and a number of teaching centers. It is our commitment that the UH System will have a place for all students, but some may begin their college education in a community college or another UH System university where class size, academic programs and modes of delivery are more conducive to their learning style. Students will find pathways to complete or advance their education at the flagship campus whenever they are academically prepared to succeed.

Why is UH’s status as a Tier One University relevant to the community?
A public Tier One university enhances Houston’s capacity to attract talent, invite new industry, strengthen existing businesses and benefit from cutting-edge research that is locally tested and relevant. Graduates from a nationally competitive university will have a national brand and globally competitive skills. Finally, the university will attract more federal dollars, and data indicates that one federal dollar in research grants results in $18 worth of economic impact.

Is there a role for athletics in a Tier One University?
Absolutely. A nationally competitive university will strive for nothing less than a nationally competitive athletics program.

Does the Carnegie classification mean that UH has now completed its task of becoming a Tier One university?
The Carnegie recognition is very encouraging and validates the considerable efforts and commitment of UH and its supporters. Continuing hard work will be required to maintain that distinction. However, Tier One status is not an end in itself. UH is still committed to broadening our overall excellence and, in particular, strengthening our performance and reputation for student success. We are continuing our efforts along those lines and hope to enjoy results as admirable as the Carnegie distinction at some point.