Khator sees flagship UH
Though she only took the reigns of the University a mere seven months ago, UH President Renu Khator already has an ambitious goal for this campus – to lift it to flagship status. After meeting with Texas legislatures earlier this month she laid the foundation for a process that would take millions of dollars, from private donors and state support, and many years for the University to fulfill.
In a Legislative presentation in front of six other university presidents, Khator gave reasons why UH should obtain funding to become Texas’ next flagship research institution and how much funding it would need.
"I am 100 percent sure that the quality of education that (students) are getting here is a top-tier education, because I know the quality of the faculty of the University of Houston and I know the quality of the curriculum that they offer," Khator said.
Although the definition of a "Tier I" research university isn’t exactly carved in stone, the seven university leaders vying for flagship status -Texas Tech University, University of North Texas, UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, UT-El Paso and UT-San Antonio – are looking to fulfill a slew of criteria to bring them that much closer to the likes of The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A’M University.
To convince legislators they have what it takes to achieve this status, the universities must show their ability to gain research capital, recruit nationally esteemed faculty, shape programs to the level of national accreditation, attract the best students and gain adequate private backing.
"What it boils down to is building a nationally competitive research University," Khator said.
UH has garnered more than $75 million for research, whereas the research funding levels for Texas Tech and UT-Dallas are $51 million and $43 million, respectively. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s research funding criteria, a "top tier" institute should have roughly $100 million for research.
The Coordinating Board also rates universities on the number and range of doctorates granted to students.
UH has 237 doctoral programs in more than 35 fields of study, ranging from industrial engineering to history.
"You do not build a top-tier University or a nationally competitive University if you have not built a top-tier learning environment for students," Khator saaid.
The campus’ proximity to the Texas Medical Center allows students and professors to partake in specialized medical research and collaborative efforts with major entities such as the Texas Heart Institute and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, she said.
"Being in a city which has the world’s largest medical facility gives us an enormous opportunity to partner with them and increase our footprint, which again helps us strengthen our research and programs," she said.
There are some areas, however, where UH is lagging behind Texas’ other universities.
"In terms of the quality of research – that’s where we are the furthest behind. We need to first double our research expenditures in order for us to be there," Khator said.
As far as courting alumni and gaining private support, Khator is proposing that the state match the funding of private gifts the University secures for research-related activities.
"Eventually it does come down to support and partnerships and it does come down to funding," she said.
This way, neither the state or the University would carry the sole financial burden of obtaining these funds.
The branding of Texas’ next flagship institution may very well be many millions of dollars and a great number of years down the road for any of the given seven institutions.
Even if a particular school wins over the Legislature, it does not guarantee the state will deliver the financial support a university needs to climb the ranks of the higher education system.
Khator is confident whatever the case may be for UH, she will continue to take the steps to ensure UH is on the right track.
"One of the things that I have learned in my life is that you cannot worry too much about the fruits of your labor if you put your heart and soul into something. All you can do is act," Khator said.
"You can put your best effort possible, so when I get up in the morning I don’t think about if I’m going to be successful or not. What I think about every morning is what more can I do to make sure the vision is out there."