The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday November 29th

UNC schools await Board of Governors action on degree programs

Those interested in post-graduate degrees in nursing practice, public policy or American studies at the University need not apply any time soon.

Though UNC-CH has named these programs as top priorities for at least a year, they have not been approved by the UNC system.

UNC-CH Academic Program Submissions:

UNC-CH has five programs in the queue for approval by administrators — following only N.C. A&T, UNC-C and ECU:

  • Nursing Practice at the Doctorate of Nursing Practice level, received on Feb. 2, 2010
  • Global Studies at the M.A. level, received on Sept. 22, 2010
  • American Studies at the M.A. and Ph.D. levels, received on Nov. 5, 2010
  • Public Policy at the M.A . level, received on March 10, 2011
  • Management at the M.S. level, received on March 10, 2010

But getting degree programs approved is a problem for several schools in the UNC system.

Administrators have a pile of 49 program proposals waiting to be reviewed and approved. A few even date back to 2007.

“They have been going very slowly,” said Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost for UNC-CH. “And it’s only in this academic year that they’re trying to fix this backlog.”

Three schools are waiting on approval for Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees: UNC-CH, UNC-Charlotte and East Carolina University.

Carney said the wait for approval could be keeping UNC-CH behind its peer institutions around the country.

In fact, nearly every one of the school’s national peers offers the degree, including the University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Maryland.

“If you specifically know what you want, you’ll go to a school that has it,” said junior nursing major Kellie Archer. “And a lot more of health care is being driven that way, to nursing.”

A task force headed by Peaches Blank, a UNC-system Board of Governors member, has outlined a plan to dig the administration out of the delay.

Stricter deadlines and greater research requirements will make universities take the process more seriously, Blank said at the task force’s meeting Tuesday.

“If this is an important program, then I want to hustle and get it out there to students as fast as we can,” she said.

With the new guidelines, universities must have more defined budgets and funding ideas when they make a proposal.

Administrators and board members said they want proposals to be better researched and planned before they get to the stack awaiting review — essentially, they want to weed out weak proposals before they start.

“UNC Tomorrow seems to be more expansive than we have dollars,” said Suzanne Ortega, senior vice president for academic affairs for the UNC system. “We need to be more about responsiveness to state needs.”

UNC Tomorrow — former UNC-system President Erskine Bowles’ plan for system-wide innovation and long-term planning — cites meeting regional and state needs as the top priority for the state’s public universities.

The refined degree proposal process is not a move away from the plan, but a way to make it more effective in realizing those goals, Blank said.

But Philip DuBois, the chancellor at UNC-Charlotte, said the rate of proposals should decrease as schools cut back on enrollment growth and expensive initiatives, alleviating some of the backlog issues.

UNC-C has eight programs awaiting approval, while ECU and N.C. Agricultural & Technical State University have six. N.C. State University and UNC-CH each have five in the system.

These universities, which all have significant research capabilities, make up the bulk of proposals.

Smaller schools less focused on research also have concerns that their proposals get overshadowed by the inundation from research universities, said James Anderson, the chancellor at Fayetteville State University.

DuBois and Anderson participated in the task force meetings, and provosts from around the UNC system gave positive feedback on the streamlined process.

In 2011, one degree program was approved for UNC-CH: a bachelor’s degree in business journalism.

But a proposal for a masters and Ph.D. in American Studies is waiting — a loss of huge potential, said Bill Ferris, a history professor and adjunct professor in the department.

“These degrees would give significant recognition to the university,” he said, adding that UNC-CH has the world’s largest archive on the American South.

“But things always take longer than you would like,” he said.

Carney said the process of review and approval should take about two years. Developing and proposing a new degree takes at least a few months for the university, he said.

After it is proposed, the degree approval process involves a tedious back-and-forth of research and questions between the administrators and the university, usually culminating in a recommendation from the system’s General Administration.

Then it goes to the Board of Governors, which generally approves the recommendation.

The board approved a total of 11 programs for establishment and two for planning in 2011.

“By the time it gets to them, nearly all of the tough questions have been answered,” Ortega said.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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