The University of Minnesota ranked among the top 10 research schools in the country for the first time in its history, based on year-end data presented Friday.
But sustaining the growth of the past five years will be difficult given drop-offs in federal funding.
The University checked in at No. 10 in the list of public and private research institutions compiled by the National
Science Foundation. It fared even better among public schools, overtaking Ohio State University for the eighth spot.
While the school moved up two places since 2005, it’s still struggling to reach its goal of being a top three research institution.
Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy attributed growth in the University’s research operation — expenditures have increased by $212 million since 2004 — to strong planning and allocating resources to “get as much bang for the dollar as possible.”
He emphasized the NSF findings in an annual research review with the Board of Regents on Friday.
“If you’re going to rate a university on its research enterprise, this is the single number most would rely on,” Mulcahy said.
Faculty have bought into the University’s research mission, and pilot funding and new programs have spurred collaboration and innovation, he said.
“I used to think the goal of being [among] the top three research universities was only an aspiration,” Regent Linda Cohen said. “But after this report I’m beginning to think perhaps this could be a reality.”
The end of the federal stimulus program — which netted the University $208 million over two years — and shifts in federal funding could threaten future research growth, Mulcahy said.
“To be honest with you, I’m concerned,” he said. “The future does not look bright for research at the national level.”
All institutions would be affected by a dip in federal funding, but Mulcahy said the University is well-positioned and has a strong chance at continuing success.
The University is currently working on streamlining policies that “impede” researchers’ abilities to pursue grants and be competitive,
President Bob Bruininks estimated that University research helps create upwards of 35,000 jobs in the state’s economy and used the data to underscore the need for state support of the University and its research mission.
“If anybody wants to create jobs in the state of Minnesota,” he said, “probably the worst thing you can do is cut the University to
The University is in “good financial health” and things are beginning to turn around after the recession, Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said Friday during an annual finance review.
“It’s been a tough couple of years with the economy,” Pfutzenreuter told the Board of Regents. “[But] the University, I think, is certainly on the repair.”
The University’s net assets, which include its investments, buildings and other payments, increased $171.5 million during the 2010 fiscal year, which ended June 30. This compares to a $342.1 million drop in net assets the previous year.
Much of the growth was driven by improvement in the University’s investment portfolio and the construction of new buildings, like the Science Teaching and Student Services building completed this fall.
The University’s expenses remained essentially the same as the previous year, something Controller Mike Volna attributed to an “extraordinary effort” to cut costs and budget more efficiently.
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
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