KU outlines goals for next 10 years, and ways to get there

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on Wednesday unveiled a new 10-year strategic plan for the school.

The comprehensive plan was developed over the past year by committees made up of university staff, faculty, students and members of the community. Gray-Little presented it to the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees public universities and colleges in the state.

“This plan emphasizes three areas: educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that will change the world,” Gray-Little said.

Within those areas it touches on a variety of sub-themes that Gray-Little said fit with KU’s overall mission as a research institution. Those include shooting for academic excellence; bringing communities together; expanding research, and promoting sustainability, health care, technology and economic development.

“Our mission is to lift students and society far above,” Gray-Little said, “to raise KU’s stature and secure a place among top research universities. This is an important time for us.”

She said that during the many meetings that led to the plan, she heard public demand for the university to produce more leaders for Kansas, more research to benefit the world and more health solutions and cures.

Weaved throughout the plan, Gray-Little said, are strategies to beef up recruitment of the state’s best students and top-notch faculty from across the country, then find ways to retain them both. KU wants to improve its first-year retention rate among students to 90 percent from its current 79 percent.

Gray-Little said another goal is to help students at KU to complete their degrees within four or five years, rather than the increasingly common six-year timetable.

Another key point is to implement the plan as efficiently as possible and keep tuition increases down.

“I don’t anticipate that we will have significantly larger tuitions,” Gray-Little said.

She said the blueprint, while it builds on the university’s existing mission, “in some ways it takes us in some new directions.” For example, Gray-Little cited the emphasis placed on operating a sustainable campus and having the idea of sustainability infused into teaching and research.

Some initiatives already are under way.

“The strategic plan is an outline,” Gray-Little said. “It is a step-by-step guide” to moving the university toward its goal of “being counted among the very top-tier of the nation’s best institution of higher learning.”

Currently the University of Kansas ranks 48th among the 94 public doctoral research universities; the University of Missouri is 36th. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Gray-Little was before coming to Kansas, is ranked sixth.

The rankings are based on federal research, national academies membership, faculty awards, alumni giving, first­year retention rate and six-year graduation rate.

Related stories from Kansas City Star