The battle over UT

September 20, 2012
Paul Burka | Texas Monthly

wrote the cover story in the current issue of TEXAS MONTHLY. The subject is the future of higher education generally and the threats to the academic reputation of UT-Austin in particular. In the story I deal with Governor Perry’s attempt, starting in 2008, to control higher ed by seeking to impose “breakthrough solutions” that would radically alter the way higher education is governed, in ways that are at times inconsistent with the mission of a Tier 1 university. Some of the reforms proposed were intriguing, but none are in general use.

The latest concern is that recent appointees to the Board of Regents, several of them connected to the influential Texas Public Policy Foundation, have an ideological agenda concerning the governance of UT-Austin–expanding enrollment and reducing funding–that may jeopardize the academic stature of the university. UT is not the only campus in the state to face this threat; at one point, Texas A&M was in danger of losing its membership in the Association of American Universities, the “club” of the nation’s leading research universities. The objective of my story is to relate how this state of affairs came to exist and how it might impact the state’s leading universities.

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