Austin — The University of Texas at Austin could generate as much as $490 million in savings and new revenue over a decade while enhancing its excellence in teaching and research, according to a report submitted by private sector experts who have reviewed university operations.
The Committee on Business Productivity, which was chaired by Steve Rohleder, chief executive of Accenture Health and Public Service, recommended changing how campus administrative units are organized by implementing shared services; modifying its business practices to better foster an environment that will lead to increased commercialization of faculty research; and better leveraging university assets.
“Universities are not simply businesses, but in the specific ways that they are like businesses — processing applications, supporting information technology, reimbursing travel, buying outside services, turning lights on and off, printing and mailing and so forth — they ought to be following the best business practices,” President Bill Powers said. “To do otherwise, as the recipient of both tax dollars and tuition dollars, is to betray the public trust.”
In a speech to the UT Austin community, Powers endorsed the direction and objectives of the report. He welcomed it as a key step in an ongoing process of making UT Austin — already one of the most efficient research universities in the nation — even more productive. He said he and campus leaders will review the specific proposals and develop an implementation plan.
The 13-member committee, which was appointed by Powers last spring, presented three broad types of recommendations:
- Consolidating business and administrative functions now spread across individual colleges and offices. This could save the university up to $200 million over 10 years and, Powers said, could be achieved largely through natural job attrition. These changes would not affect the university’s decentralized academic structure, under which teaching and research are coordinated by faculty members, departments and colleges.
- Streamlining the process for licensing UT-generated technology. The university should license as many projects as possible and let the private sector pick the “winners.”
- Better leveraging university assets, such as selling excess power, or changing the business model for food, housing and parking services. As with all the recommendations, the potential impact on students, staff and faculty will be carefully reviewed before any such changes are implemented.
“The committee strongly shares President Powers’ goal of making UT Austin the No. 1 public university in America and believes these recommendations are an important means to that end,” Rohleder wrote in the executive summary of the report. “If successful, The University of Texas would be the first university in America to overhaul its operational models in all three areas under consideration.”
The committee recommended that someone with significant leadership skills and power to push these reforms be appointed to the task. Powers has tapped university vice president and chief financial officer Kevin Hegarty to lead implementation of the recommendations, a process that is expected to actively involve the campus, span several years and be carried out in multiple stages.
The committee was not charged with reviewing the university’s academic offerings, many of which are already being transformed or have been reformed during the past decade through such initiatives as the establishment of the School of Undergraduate Studies, the development of Signature Courses and the creation of the Course Transformation Project.