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About Tier One Frequently Asked Questions

So what is Tier One?
What could a Tier One university mean for San Antonio?
What are the Tier One universities in Texas?
How does UTSA qualify under the NRUF?
When will UTSA become a Tier One university?
How close is UTSA to reaching Tier One?


So what is Tier One?

Tier One is a general term used for a university that has been nationally recognized for excellence in academics and research. Such universities also are proven to be an economic powerhouse for their region.

Economists estimate that Tier One universities generate 334 new jobs and add $8.6 million in wages for every $10 million in research expenditures. Investment in research and development yields a 20 to 30 percent rate of return to Texas in terms of jobs and economic stimulus, according to the Texas Legislative Study group.

In the United States, a Tier One university typically:

  • has more than $100 million each year in research expenditures
  • awards at least 100 doctorate degrees per year
  • is recognized by respected national organizations such as The Association of American Universities or by publications such as U.S. News and World Report
  • has faculty members who are Nobel Laureate(s) and/or members of the National Academies.

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What does a Tier One university mean for San Antonio?

UTSA's Institute for Economic Development estimates that a Tier One university in San Antonio could provide:

  • more than $2.5 billion in additional dollars to our local economy
  • an additional 41,000 jobs (more than 9,500 of those jobs would be the direct result of increased research).

The numbers are based on projected student enrollment in 10 years, increased research activity and research estimates from the American Association of Universities on research activity and job creation.

In addition, Tier One means elevating the reputation and visibility of both the university and our local community. It means attracting the best students, the most sought after teaching faculty, and the world's best researchers.

It means faculty, students and alumni forging ahead with innovations and the creation of new companies from ideas that are birthed in a UTSA laboratory.

It means promoting new technology enterprises and forums for cooperation with local industry. It means providing San Antonio with economic development leverage (the best human capital) to attract the kinds of industry San Antonio wants to grow and build.

Can you imagine Northern California's Silicon Valley without Stanford University or University of California- Berkley?

What about Boston's Route 128, the technology highway, without MIT or Austin's Silicon Hills without UT-Austin?

And imagine San Antonio without UTHSC-SA and its biotech industry.

The bottom line: Tier One places San Antonio, the region and Texas on the global map of technology and industry, and that will have a direct benefit to all.

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What are the Tier One universities in Texas?

The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and Rice University are the state's only Tier One institutions. Although these universities are world-renowned for research and education, the three alone cannot keep up with growing student demand.

Also, Texas is losing ground in the global competitive market. If we, as a state, are to compete in producing more students in graduate and doctoral programs, in producing cutting–edge research and high tech innovations, and in generating patents that birth companies, industries and commercialization opportunities, we will need more Tier Ones.

As a result, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) identified seven state universities (called emerging research universities) that have the momentum and the potential to become Tier One. The universities were chosen based on accomplishments in research and education.

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the seven.

Recognizing that funding is a key ingredient in elevating these universities to the next level, the Texas Legislature established the National Research University Fund (NRUF), which Texas voters approved in November 2009, as Proposition 4, an amendment to the State Constitution. Only the seven emerging research universities are eligible to compete for some $550 million reserved in the NRUF.

Further Legislative language states that in order for an emerging research university to be eligible to compete in the NRUF, a university must have at least $45 million in restricted research expenditures and meet four of the following criteria:

  • $400 million in endowments
  • 200 doctoral degrees awarded each year
  • membership in the Association of Research Libraries, Phi Beta Kappa or equivalent national recognition
  • achieve a faculty of high quality, who are Nobel Laureates and/or members of the National Academies
  • achieve an entering freshman class of high academic achievement as determined by THECB
  • demonstrate a commitment to high quality graduate education

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How does UTSA qualify under the NRUF?

UTSA is actively working to meet 100 percent of NRUF requirements.

Currently, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) is in the process of redefining three of the six criteria (faculty of high quality, freshman class of high achievement, and commitment to high quality education).

As criteria are being refined, the accomplishments at UTSA are continuing. The university has a strategic plan in place to increase the number of quality faculty, endowments, research expenditures and doctoral degrees offered each year. Also, achievements continue in research and education.

To date UTSA has:

  • total research expenditures of $46 million
  • total research expenditures and sponsored programs of $67 million
  • endowments of $48.45 million, as of Oct. 31, 2009
  • degrees awarded – 46 doctoral, 919 masters, 3,841 bachelors

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When will UTSA become a Tier One university?

There is no magic date. Experts predict it will take at least 10 years for a majority of the seven Texas emerging research universities to become Tier One. UTSA's journey, however, has already begun.

Achieving the State Legislature benchmarks for Tier One does not automatically create a nationally recognized university of that caliber. Other universal factors must be considered such as:

  • membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU)
  • at least $100 million annually in research funding
  • ranked among the top 60 universities by U.S. News and World Report on items such as quality, reputation, funding, and research productivity
  • ranking by the Center for Teaching or the Carnegie Foundation

UTSA is confident these measures can be achieved, especially if additional community investment is offered to:

  • secure membership in the Association of Research libraries and /or Phi Beta Kappa
  • increase research expenditures
  • grow the university endowment
  • achieve a faculty of high quality
  • achieve an entering freshman class of high academic achievement
  • increase high quality graduate education opportunities.

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How close is UTSA to reaching Tier One?

Getting closer every day.

By the end of 2010, research expenditures are expected to increase from $47 million to $75 million.

Partnerships will continue to grow with industry and research entities like the Southwest Research Institute, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, and the growing San Antonio Life Sciences initiative with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC-SA).

Growth also is expected in UTSA's partnerships with the military and local military divisions like the 24th Air Force Cyber Command Center. Such partnerships help UTSA increase research expenditures.

In addition, plans are under way to increase the university's endowment with the support of the San Antonio community, growing corporate base and increasing UTSA alumni population.

Also, the university is focused on securing membership in the Association of Research Libraries and is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar improvement to the library facility and programs.

The improvements are an important part in the university's strategic plan to increase faculty research and provide even more academic programs and opportunities for students.

Another way UTSA is getting closer to the Tier One goal is through the addition of top faculty and through faculty accomplishments.

Les Shephard of National Sandia Laboratories joined UTSA's faculty as the McDermott Distinguished Chair in Engineering, and as executive director of UTSA's Institute of Conventional and Alternative Renewable Energy (ICARE).

Ravi Sandhu, an expert in the field of cyber security and commercialization, joined the faculty as executive director of UTSA's newly created Institute for Cyber Security.

George Perry, dean of the College of Sciences, was recently listed as one of the top 10 recognized researchers in the world in Alzheimer's disease.

The number of top faculty at UTSA is expected to rise as scholars from around the world are increasingly seeking a role in research and discovery at the university.

And lastly, UTSA is reaching the Tier One goal through student growth and accomplishments. Currently, UTSA has 550 graduate students enrolled in 21 doctoral programs, and the university is increasingly attracting freshman classes of high academic achievement.

Among the many student accomplishments over the years, UTSA can add Rhodes Scholar finalists to the list as two of its students recently received the prestigious honor, both in the same year.

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