Two landmark decisions were made by the UI Board of Trustees at its March 13 meeting in Urbana: the decision to support a consensus resolution to retire Chief Illiniwek, and another to proceed with the Global Campus Partnership, an initiative that will offer degrees, certificates and professional development courses to a worldwide audience primarily through the Web.
The original Global Campus proposal, presented by UI President B. Joseph White to the board in September, called for a separate for-profit company staffed with adjunct instructors was revamped based upon concerns raised by the faculty-student senates at the Chicago, Springfield and Urbana campuses and the University Senates Conference.
According to the new plan, the Global Campus will be a universitywide academic unit led by a chief executive officer reporting directly to White.
Initially the Global Campus will offer only degree and certificate programs designed and governed by partnering academic units at the three UI campuses, but in the future could offer multi-institutional programs developed in collaboration with other accredited institutions, if no UI units are willing to create or capable of creating those programs, White said.
An Academic Council will oversee the curricula, ensure programmatic quality and govern the Global Campus in cooperation with the three campus senates. An Interim Academic Council – appointed by White in consultation with the USC and the three senates – will develop a proposal for selecting and appointing the permanent academic council by the end of the spring 2007 semester.
Courses will be developed and taught by tenured faculty members in partnering units at the three campuses, by part-time instructors hired by the partnering units, or by full-time teachers employed on an annual or multi-year contract basis who will not be eligible for tenure. The dean of the Global Campus, in consultation with the Academic Council and the partnering units, will decide who teaches.
White was adamant: “Every program offered through the Global Campus will be designed, developed and approved through the same process we have today. We are way behind in terms of developing our mastery of important new technologies, except UIS.”
UIS offers eight undergraduate and six graduate programs that consist entirely of online courses, and while trustee Frances Carroll and other trustees were concerned that the Global Campus would pose adverse competition, UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen was not. “The Global Campus will only compete when UIS can’t scale a program up to the size that the Global Campus needs, and there are some of our programs that won’t scale up.”
Trustees Robert Sperling, Niranjan Shah and David Dorris voted in favor of postponing board approval pending further discussions, saying there were too many unanswered questions, but the motion failed.
In reference to recent news reports that the University of Phoenix is having financial difficulties, Sperling asked, “Does it give you pause at all that one of the real leaders in online education is suffering some problems?”
“I think the timing of the University of Phoenix running into problems is ideal if we have the courage to move forward,” White said. “If anybody here thinks that we’re not going to do a far, far better job, then there’s no confidence in the university.”
Board chair Lawrence Eppley shared White’s sense of urgency about proceeding with the project. “I think we could plan it to death if we’re not careful,” Eppley said.
James D. Montgomery, who was attending his first meeting as a trustee, concurred. “I think a lot of people don’t want to see things changed. It seems to me that the ball has to start rolling at some point or another.”
A marketing and research analysis will be conducted to identify high demand programs that are self-sustainable and potentially profitable. According to projections, the Global Campus should recoup its $15 million to 20 million start-up costs and generate a profit by FY2011; by FY2012, enrollment should reach more than 9,000 students in 31 degree and certificate programs with 125 full-time staff members.
The start-up costs and working capital will be funded by establishing a line of credit with the university, and by reallocating about $1.5 million in salaries for staff members reassigned from the Illinois Virtual Campus, Illinois Online Network, UI Online and other units. The President’s Office will provide nonrecurring funding of $750,000 in FY07, FY08 and FY09.
In other business, the trustees approved proposals to
- Establish the School of Earth, Society and Environment in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at Urbana. The school will comprise the departments of geography, geology and atmospheric sciences.
- Construct a $4.9 million Football Personal Performance Center under the new north grandstand at Memorial Stadium that will provide facilities for strength and conditioning, meetings and recruiting.