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New budget model academic quality indicators
posted June 12, 2007

Guiding Principles

The institution?s values as expressed in the academic plan should inform and drive budgetary decisions. While the new budget model will link resources with revenue generating activity and total costs, it is simply a tool for the allocation of limited resources in a way that serves and supports the academic mission of the University.  Different programs require different levels of resources and resource allocation decisions must be made to maximize academic quality, while maintaining fiscal responsibility. 

In addition, academic leadership of the university should regularly coordinate and share information about planned changes related to credit production and resource allocation since the activity of units is interrelated and can influence resources in other units.

Faculty, departments/schools, colleges and the central administration should regularly review key quantitative and qualitative academic quality indicators using both standardized processes and periodic monitoring. 

Academic Quality Indicators

Maintenance of Tenure-Track Faculty Base
With stable enrollments, the ratio of the total number of tenure track faculty to students across the university should remain stable.  Distributions of tenure-track faculty across units may need to fluctuate when programs grow or shrink but the faculty-student ratio should remain stable.  There may be temporary declines when faculty retire or resign and are temporarily replaced with part-time or visiting faculty while a search is conducted.  When the number of tenure-track faculty in a unit is expected to be permanently reduced, that decision should be reviewed to ensure that the reduction is related to decreases in program demand and will not affect academic quality. 

Maintenance of Tenure-Track Faculty Credit Hour Production
In addition to the number of tenure-track faculty, the weighted student credit hours produced per tenure-track faculty member should also remain stable. Reductions in credit hour production within a unit should be reviewed to ensure that teaching capacity is sufficient to meet demand.

Maintenance of Research and Creative Activity Production
Colleges should maintain or increase the quantity and quality of research and creative activity using metric that are appropriate to the particular discipline. Decreases in productivity should be reviewed to ensure that it will not affect academic quality.

Course Duplication
When new courses are approved by the University Curriculum Council, there should continue to be a comprehensive review of existing courses to ensure that units do not create duplicate courses simply for purposes of revenue generation.  This review should recognize that some content areas may be related to multiple disciplines and that some courses may appear to be duplications but are actually coverage of the same content area from a different discipline perspective.  Some duplication may also be justified if a unit with the existing course is unable to meet demand.

Section size
The interaction between the average section size of a course and factors such as discipline, pedagogy and course level should be monitored and reviewed. While there will be differences in section size across courses, the average section size for a course should remain fairly stable over the long term.    Programs or courses that experience increasing section sizes should be reviewed to ensure that any increases are consistent with the discipline, course pedagogy and course level, and will not affect academic quality. 

Grade Inflation
Grade distributions for courses and programs should be reviewed to ensure that there are no drastic shifts superimposed on any existing trends in grade distribution during the period before the implementation of the budget model.

Incoming Student Profile
The quality of the entering Freshman class should continue to be monitored to ensure that the quality is maintained. This review should also consider national and state trends in student profile as well as changes in the distribution of students across programs.

Program Accreditation
External accreditations should be monitored as a measure of academic quality.  It is expected that programs with external accreditation would maintain that status.

Support for Honors Programs
Academic units will be expected to maintain current levels of honors program activities (number of students, credit hour production, etc).  Any decrease within a unit should be reviewed to determine if there are valid reasons for the change beyond simple financial considerations.

Interdisciplinary Programs
Barriers to the creation of interdisciplinary programs have always existed and are often not related to financial consideration (e.g. T&P policies).  The number of interdisciplinary programs should be monitored and any elimination of interdisciplinary programs should be reviewed to ensure that there are valid reasons beyond simple financial considerations. 

Review Processes and Periodic Monitoring

Each of the program indicators calls for a review to ensure that changes occur for valid reasons beyond simple financial considerations. This review can occur at multiple levels and should become part of formal review processes as well as periodic monitoring.

Formal review processes that should play a role in the assessment of the interaction between the budget model and academic quality include:

  • University Curriculum Council review of course proposals and changes should monitor course duplication issues
  • The 7-year Program Review process should be include a review of the performance indicators 
  • A formal review of the new budget model should be done every 5 year and should include an assessment of the interaction between the budget model and these quality indicators.

Periodic monitoring of quality indicators should be an ongoing activity at multiple levels:

  • Departments/Schools should monitor these indicators and be able to explain changes to their college.
  • Colleges should monitor these indicators and be able to explain changes to the provost during the annual budget process.
  • The provost should monitor these indicators at the institution level. 

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