Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

UVU 'Dual Mission' Aims to Ease Funding Woes

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

UVU 'Dual Mission' Aims to Ease Funding Woes

Article excerpt

Campus 'with two faces' has managed to boost enrolment and trim fees. Ellie Bothwell reports

To mark its 75th anniversary, Utah Valley University unveiled a 200ft-wide (60 metres) stained-glass mural at its library.

The 80-pane panorama, titled Roots of Knowledge, chronicles the greatest advances of human civilisation, illustrating major events and inventions from the Mayan calendar to the US civil rights movement. It combined the work and guidance of more than 40 professional artists, 26 scholars and 350 students.

Matthew Holland, UVU's president, told Times Higher Education that the $3 million (£2.42 million) artwork, funded through philanthropy, will be an "engaged learning tool" for students.

But there is also another major reason for the project: to signal to prospective students, the academic community and the public that UVU is a "serious university".

The institution launched in 1941 as a small vocational school and became a community college in 1987. It was not until 2008 that it became a fully fledged university, and Professor Holland took over the institution a year later.

The stained glass is a "signal that the little vocational school is [now] very vibrant, intellectually alive and yet still a practical university that is moving forward on a grand scale", he said.

However, Professor Holland said that it was important that the institution retained its community college arm after it was granted university status, even if that made the task of changing the institution's brand more difficult.

"On the one hand, I needed to help the community internally and externally see that this was, and was going to be ever more so, a great serious university; that there were standards [and] we weren't just some lawned-over state college that did vocational training," he said.

"One of the easiest ways to do that would be to hive off all of the vocational training and say that we don't do that any more. But I knew that we needed to hang on to that, that it was an important part of our model, a way to help save costs, and a way to create opportunities for students that need them."

Implementing this "dual mission" of being both a community college and a university has helped the institution to reduce tuition and fees to an average of $14,802 a year and increase enrolment to almost 35,000 students at a time when other US universities are hiking costs and struggling with recruitment, according to Professor Holland.

He said that this low-cost model is a direct response to what he calls the "ironic state of higher education": the public questioning the value and relevance of universities as technological advancements and increasing globalisation mean that degrees are needed more than ever. …

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