The Proposed Future of UNT-Dallas: More Online Classes, Less Research

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Tomorrow afternoon, Mark Cuban, Mayor Mike Rawlings, and Harvard Business School guru Clayton Christensen will walk into a room with a dozen other civic, academic, and business leaders for the sixth and final closed-door meeting of the 21st Century Commission to finalize their vision for the future of the University of North Texas at Dallas.

The panel has been been meeting for the past year to develop a plan to transform the school into a "New University Model" that will offer a high-quality, career-focused education at relatively low cost. Their discussions have been fueled by a pro-bono, three-and-a-half month study of the school and the higher education landscape by Bain & Company.

That's the broad outline. What exactly that might look like when on the ground has been an open question and still is, though the university did provide a hint with today's release of the commission's draft report, which will be voted up or down at tomorrow's meeting.

"Our role is not to prescribe the details of the new UNT Dallas curriculum and business model, but instead to support several promising directions for innovation, cost-effectiveness, and quality enhancement," the report states, meaning the recommendations won't get down into nitty-gritty detail.

What they do is flesh out a bit more the school's guiding philosophy. The commission, for example, wants the school to focus more heavily on teaching than a traditional university, meaning faculty will be doing less research and spending more time in the classroom. There will be a focus on getting students experience in the workforce through internships or mentoring programs with local companies. A year-round schedule, perhaps on a trimester system, will speed graduation and reduce costs.

None of those ideas are particularly revolutionary, but there are aspects of the plan that chip away more forcefully at the traditional university model. The commission wants a heavy emphasis on online learning, with entire degree programs relying heavily on material "available for rent or purchase in the marketplace or the public domain." Those degree programs won't be determined by some Socratic ideal of education but by what job opportunities are available in the Dallas area.

The very nature of faculty research will also change. The "scholarship component" of a professor's workload will be subject to approval by each department's chair, and a significant portion will be "related to the urban mission of UNT-Dallas and relevant to UNT-Dallas academic programs." Also, the administration "will consider practical market need and willingness of an employer partner to fund the scholarly work."

Perhaps the biggest change is that the university hopes to be completely self-sustaining without state support while charging $4,000 per semester. Whatever funding the state does chip in would be used for student programs or campus improvements. Getting to the point where that's a possibility won't be cheap: UNT-Dallas is looking to raise $40 million over the next five years.

These ideas have already received a lukewarm reception from a faculty panel, who, by the way, aren't terribly thrilled about the administration as a whole.

Mark Gottfriedson, a senior partner in Bain's Dallas office, said some "knee-jerk" opposition is to expected whenever there's change. Besides, the report says, "(t)he faculty and staff hired on here came with the knowledge that this was not going to be a traditional university."

Gottfiedson likens what's happening at UNT-Dallas to the development of the steel industry. Christianson, the Harvard Business School professor, likes to tell of how when mini-mills first came into the industry, they were ignored by larger operations. They made low-quality products with small margins, and the major producers were more than happy to cede that segment of the market. But then mini-mills developed the ability to produce higher-quality products for cheaper, and eventually changed the way the steel industry operates. The term of art is "disruptive innovation."

So while the Harvards and the Stanfords and the Yales will remain impervious to the market forces that are shaping UNT-Dallas, most other colleges won't. Gottfriedson thinks they, too, will adopt the reforms implemented at the only four-year university in Dallas proper. The hope is that here, with the university barely a decade old, the innovation won't be quite so disruptive.



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27 comments
dmoore21
dmoore21

@mcuban I like the distributed education model, but I'm not a fan of cutting research... Especially since UTD is a tech school...

Daniel
Daniel

UNT is lowering its already low level of prestige. Can't community colleges hold down the remedial end of the spectrum? Credible universities are not in the hand-holding business. 

TitusGroan
TitusGroan

Well, something needs to be done.  High school is a nearly-worthless credential, and a bachelor's degree is rapidly declining in value.  State support is dropping as costs soar.  Kids aren't prepared for college, and college isn't preparing them for anything.  We need a new plan.  Maybe this is it.

CWundy
CWundy

@mcuban Loving shark tank!!

MizzenAndMain
MizzenAndMain

@mcuban Now on to American made dress shirts?

DB_bodytogs
DB_bodytogs

@mcuban Can we start a series chronicling a week of gms once the season start and work with NBATV or ESPN to broadcast it globally??

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

So what are these folks going to do with the Building and land once this Idea turns to Shit ?

ericbgonzales
ericbgonzales

@mcuban @dallas_observer So with less research, UNT-Dallas won't be striving for Tier 1 status in the coming years?

oneuniv
oneuniv

@mcuban @dallas_observer Less research, not good.

Simon_Behr
Simon_Behr

@mcuban @dallas_observer heres a serious question, do we need teachers? I would rather watch the US's best teachers on tape.

DJjodes
DJjodes

@mcuban @dallas_observer u don't need a panel to know that if u operate a university as a school, not as a business, tuition is affordable

kurtswiger
kurtswiger

@mcuban check out LoudCloud Systems in Dallas. Startup w/ large upside in adaptive/analytical technology for higher ed. Gaining traction...

RealShaneRudman
RealShaneRudman

@mcuban @dallas_observer finally some common sense coming to the educational system. Sounds like the model.

trostelte
trostelte

@mcuban @dallas_observer UT Arlington Expanding and Rocking!

novologic
novologic

@mcuban @dallas_observer looks like very mixed reviews to this approach, best of luck with it. Will be following with great interest.

ShawnJacob32
ShawnJacob32

@mcuban @dallas_observer Interesting model being developed here. As I'm sure you know it'll do well or stink the joint up.

gjflynn
gjflynn

@mcuban @dallas_observer Good luck Mark, now please buy the Red Sox!

osdams
osdams

@mcuban do you support Israel?

Jimmy_Sanderson
Jimmy_Sanderson

@mcuban Interesting model, thanks for sharing, will follow this closely, agree that faculty research component needs to be re-evaluated

EricLPark
EricLPark

@mcuban as a HS teacher I love what you guys are doing at UNT-Dallas.

ThusSpokeScott
ThusSpokeScott

@mcuban UNT is dog shit. Been going here long enough to see a noticeable decline academically.

Dallasphotog
Dallasphotog

No tuition cuts, more online classes, less interaction with students?  Students just borrow money, sit in front of a computer and get a mediocre degree at best.  A win for UTD. They'll laugh all the way to the bank!

bandito
bandito

So UNT just watered down its brand permanently to put a four year community college out in the boonies. Who wants a grad degree from professors who have no research interests and why is it the responsibility of the university to find jobs for students? This isn't the type of setting Cuban would choose for his own kids. Paul Quinn down the road also can't figure out exactly what they are--remediation for $20K a year in government loans with a bunker mentality. What college ready freshman is going to be drawn to either of these? None of the luminaries who came up with this vision of higher ed would choose UNT Dallas for their own. That says it all. And this vision of UNT Dallas isn't going to grow the grand plans of linkage to downtown. Poor leadership and poor planning from the very inception. Should have stayed a satellite campus of UNT. And none of the professors thought it would come to this. They will be the butt of jokes forever.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Want Research ?

Try getting a Private sector JOB.

Open up a Stand alone Lab with your own investors and cultivate clients who are interested in funding what ever it is they want researched .

 

 

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