Report: UCDHSC should have centralized graduate school


January 11, 2007

By Kim Glasscock

Silver & Gold Record reporter

The UCDHSC Graduate School should exist as a single, centralized unit with one graduate dean who should initially report directly to the UCDHSC chancellor, according to draft recommendations developed by the faculty task force on graduate education. Those recommendations were submitted to the chancellor in December and currently are under review by the UCDHSC vice chancellors, deans and department heads.

In the initial feasibility studies for consolidating the Health Sciences Center and CU-Denver, it was noted that of the 13 colleges and schools only a graduate school existed at both institutions. At that time, a subcommittee report recommended undertaking a formal consolidation study after a five-year “learning about each other” period had elapsed. However, the upcoming 2010-11 accreditation review of the UCDHSC necessitates that the study be undertaken now, in order to get the consolidation process under way, according to the task force report.

The current structures of the two graduate schools “is so disparate that it is considered administratively unfeasible to attempt a consolidation leaving the current structures unchanged,” the task force concluded in its report. The downtown Denver campus has a completely decentralized graduate school, with all graduate programs housed in the seven UCD colleges and schools. The Health Sciences Center has a highly centralized graduate school, but also has some graduate programs housed in the medical, nursing and pharmacy schools, according to the report.

Strengths of a decentralized system include having the deans directly supervise the graduate programs and staff in their schools and colleges, allowing a rapid response to new educational opportunities or deficiencies that may arise, the report states. A decentralized system also allows the large, self-sufficient, independently-accredited professional programs to operate without redundant oversight and administration, according to the report. However, the task force also identified several weaknesses of the decentralized system on the downtown Denver campus, including a lack of philosophical, structural and funding support for many graduate programs; major disparities in support of graduate programs; uneven standards for faculty appointments, program rigor and degree completion; lack of a centralized application process, leading to uneven standards for graduate admissions; and a lack of centralized services. Under the decentralized system, the lack of funding for the graduate school has severely limited the services it can provide, and there is no voice for graduate education on the campus, since the graduate dean has limited assigned responsibilities and authority, the report states.

According to the task force, the strengths of the HSC’s centralized system include rapid, centralized application processing; uniform standards for faculty appointments, program rigor and degree completion; centralized course review for compliance with Board of Regents and Colorado Commission on Higher Education policies; coordination of student support across multiple programs; some flexibility for programs to set policies and procedures using graduate school guidelines and rules; and the ability to provide some service functions such as teaching workshops, technical writing courses and career days. But the report also lists some drawbacks of the HSC’s centralized system, including a nearly complete absence of any revenue stream other than “inadequate” state general funding from the chancellor’s office; a budget process that is dependent on the professional schools for help with graduate student support; separation of graduate programs from departments in the professional schools, which can lead to tension and a lack of coordination; and a lack of communication lines for newly emerging joint programs involving the downtown Denver campus.

In its report, the graduate school task force recommends a centralized graduate school structure. All HSC programs currently housed in the HSC Graduate School would remain in the new centralized graduate school, according to the report. At the downtown Denver campus, the task force proposes that all Ph.D. programs and master’s level programs that are not accredited by external accrediting bodies be housed in the new graduate school. Master’s level programs accredited by external bodies also may choose to be housed in the graduate school, the task force says.

A single graduate council composed of faculty from the UCDHSC campuses should provide faculty governance for the school and report to the dean, according to the recommendations. The graduate council would review proposals for new degree and certificate programs and make recommendations to the graduate dean. The council also would establish policies and procedures for ongoing graduate program reviews, approve changes to graduate school rules, conduct academic and strategic planning for the school and oversee the services provided by the school, the report states. Each school or college would have its own graduate executive committee, to function as a working group to deal with graduate education issues in that school or college.

The report also recommends that joint standing committees should be created to handle graduate faculty appointments, curriculum review including all new course proposals and review of student honor code violations and academic appeals. The joint standing committees also would report to the graduate dean.

In its report, the task force said it is “essential” that the graduate school have an administrative presence at the HSC and in downtown Denver because of the physical distances separating the campuses. The HSC and UCD each would have an associate or assistant dean and several support staff, the report states. However, the responsibilities of the associate/assistant deans would not be campus-specific ,but would pertain to the entire graduate school. One position would focus on admissions and student affairs, while the other position would focus on academic affairs. In addition, the graduate school should have a postdoctoral affairs office administrator, a fiscal officer and an information technology technician. The graduate school should be centrally funded by the chancellor’s office, according to the recommendations.

The consolidated and centralized graduate school recommended by the task force would provide regulatory and service and development functions, according to the report. Regulatory functions would include overseeing all graduate-school faculty appointments, approving new courses and programs, program review, formal admissions for graduate students, monitoring student progress, conducting degree audits and maintaining databases on all graduate students, faculty and programs. Those functions would be carried out in collaboration with the colleges, schools and departments, the report states. Service and development functions could include providing online applications, coordinating and assisting units with recruiting efforts, offering courses and seminars, conducting program staff training, providing career counseling, coordinating graduate orientation and finding outside sources of financial support for fellowships, the report says.