UIUC Senate Statement on Proposed Global Campus Changes
We fully support the aspiration driving the Global Campus initiative: to provide affordable access to quality higher education opportunities for an expanded number of qualified students.
We also support the wider aspiration to make the University of Illinois a leader in innovative uses of technology in education, through online programs, in the classroom, and in various blended forms.
We acknowledge that the existing organization of the Global Campus has not produced the quantity or diversity of degree programs originally envisioned, especially at the undergraduate level. We see many factors contributing to this circumstance, and we agree that some changes are called for.
We also agree that, given the significant amount of funds and institutional prestige already invested in the Global Campus, it is not something to abandon hastily. We want to see this initiative succeed.
Therefore, in principle, we concur with the proposal to be submitted to the Board of Trustees, authorizing the Global Campus to seek separate accreditation so that it can develop new programs under its own auspices, in direct partnership with UI faculty, as well as with partnering UI campus units.
We also agree to support the use of UIUC accreditation to cover new programs developed during the transition period until the Global Campus receives accreditation, for those programs developed under the lead of UIUC faculty members.
Within the context of this statement of support, however, we have several concerns and further advice we wish to offer.
1. We believe that the decision not to establish a separate “fourth campus” is wise. But doing so does not minimize, in our view, any of the statutory interests the Senates have in the formation and composition of the reformed Global Campus as an academic unit within the UI system. We do believe that there are issues raised by creating an accredited academic unit within the University Administration.
2. We believe that the decision to pursue accreditation needs to be informed by an evidence-driven examination of what will change if it is accomplished. What evidence do we have, specifically, that there is a critical mass of UI faculty ready and willing to work with the Global Campus, even if their campus units are not? What evidence do we have of a significantly broader demand for a Global Campus degree, if it is independently accredited?
3. We believe that, given current budget constraints on the University, significant new expenditures (or indebtedness) in pursuing the Global Campus mission need to be carefully weighed against other University and campus needs.
4. We believe that the Global Campus should grow by building upon and complementing the successful models of online programs on the various campuses, not by drawing off faculty energies and resources from those programs.
5. We believe that while competition can be a fruitful engine of change and innovation, internal competition within the UI system is usually not. We believe that a significant risk of Global Campus programs in areas where there are already successful campus programs could be to draw off students from those programs because the Global Campus tuition is lower. The result could be not a substantial net increase of students, but simply shifting student tuition dollars from one part of the University to another. That would be devastating to existing, healthy programs, and would not help the UI as a whole.
6. We believe that, if approved, the proposed Global Campus Educational Policy Council should include representatives selected by each campus Senate. This will help reassure the Senates that independent advocacy for academic quality will be balanced alongside advocacy for the programs and campus units already represented on the Council.
7. We believe that policies on conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment need to be clarified for faculty or staff working with the Global Campus. Ill will and mistrust could result if faculty or staff are put in the position of having to make a choice between service to the Global Campus and their commitment to their employing campus units.
8. We believe that the decision not to pursue partnerships with non-UI content providers is very wise. It will be almost impossible to maintain the UI quality “brand” if that were to happen, and campus units and faculty would have much less of an incentive to partner with Global Campus.
9. We believe, especially strongly, that part of this proposal should be the identification of a moment in time, 18-24 months from now, when a careful assessment of the progress of the reformed Global Campus toward its goals will be carried out. We believe that quantifiable benchmarks of progress should be identified, in advance, in order to see whether substantial progress has been made toward the stated goal of “increasing access to affordable, high-quality degree programs,” and whether the rates of bringing new programs online and enrolling students are significantly improved by these changes. We hope they will be; but if they are not, we believe it will be time to seriously re-evaluate the Global Campus initiative.