Commission says UT doesn't give students well-balanced education

The Associated Press State & Local Wire
September 30, 2004

AUSTIN: The University of Texas fails to provide undergraduate students with a core body of knowledge essential to a well-balanced education, according to a report released Thursday.

The report recommends that the university develop a new undergraduate core curriculum - courses required of all undergraduates - to provide deeper training in such areas as writing, speaking, ethics, leadership, other cultures and history.

The report is intended to shape UT for the next 25 years and to propel it into the ranks of the nation's top five public universities.

It calls for fostering "a disciplined culture of excellence" not only in undergraduate education but also in graduate studies, research and selection of academic program leaders, according to online editions of the Austin American-Statesman.

"It's a very hard-hitting report," said Kenneth Jastrow II, CEO of Austin-based Temple- Inland Inc. and chairman of the Commission of 125, a panel of more than 200 people who spent two years studying the university. "The overarching sense of this report is simply that the University of Texas can be the best, and it should aspire to do that."

The current core curriculum, last reviewed in 1981, requires 42 semester hours, or about 14 courses, in such areas as English composition, history and math. But many students earn credit for some of the courses without actually taking them, by scoring high on advanced placement tests and other exams.

Under the panel's recommendations, students would receive credit for high test scores but also would take a more advanced course in the subject.

"We felt very, very keenly that a student that gets a degree from the University of Texas should have a broad-based educational experience, but have it on this campus," said Larry Temple, a lawyer in Austin who served on the commission.

But requiring students to take more core classes could complicate degree requirements, especially in such intensive programs as engineering and business. There also could be a conflict with the university's efforts to speed graduation rates; only 42 percent of freshmen who enrolled in 1999 graduated within four years.

The panel did not say how many core classes should be required.

UT President Larry Faulkner said the report underscores core curriculum's role in preparing students to be broadly educated citizens and leaders, adding that he would respond more fully in his state-of-the-university speech on Wednesday.

"There's a deep theme here, something that has to do with the very highest hopes for the university and its service to Texas and beyond," he said. Faulkner established the Commission of 125 in 2002, a year after the 125th anniversary of the adoption of the Texas Constitution, which called for "a university of the first class."

Faulkner is expected to convene a committee to develop a new core curriculum.