Valley Falls, Kan. The Kansas Board of Regents, which governs KU, is preparing to reassess the curriculum, the ways students are taught and how faculty allocate their time.
Megatrends tracked by the nation's oldest higher education association point to enormous change at Kansas University in the next 15 years.
The National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, which counts KU among its 182 members, diagnosed the financial and educational future of U.S. colleges and universities from 1995-2010.
Here are nuggets from NASULGC's forecast:
- State support of public universities won't increase above current levels, while on-campus enrollment will rise 20 percent.
- Electronic technology -- such as interactive video -- will be the primary delivery mechanism for instruction.
- Threats to faculty tenure will intensify, with most campuses eliminating the system of life-time appointments.
- Public demands for university accountability will increase, and legislation with specific requirements will be passed in most states.
Forces of change are approaching KU and the five other universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system, said board Chairman John Hiebert of Lawrence.
"I think we have a real challenge," Hiebert told regents and university chief executives at a recent strategy session in Valley Falls.
He said regents and campus officials would reconsider academic and administrative components of the state universities. The focus of debate will be on what is taught, how it is taught and how faculty use their time, he said.
Modification of the learning environment will result from the process, he promised.
"I don't have any interest in spending a tremendous amount of time in creating a report and having it sit on a shelf and collect dust," Hiebert said.
Jon Wefald, president of Kansas State University, said one of the strongest reform catalysts in Kansas was the idea that regents universities faced profound financial constraints for the foreseeable future.
"We are not going to get any new (state) funding of consequence in the next five years," he said. "We're going to have to use monies we have much more wisely."
The exclusive mission of the re-engineering project shouldn't be to trim state university expenditures, said regent Phyllis Nolan of Louisburg.
"If we focus on cost-cutting, we'll be cutting our own throat," she said.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway is already driving a reform bandwagon. He's gearing up to streamline KU's administrative structure.
He's intrigued by the opportunity to reshape the curriculum, develop educational opportunities for students and get the highest quality work from faculty.
Hemenway said rethinking basic aspects of the university wouldn't be accomplished without the support of faculty. One way to appeal to them would be to invest cost savings back into programs that upgrade the academic environment for faculty and students, he said.
Gene Hughes, president of Wichita State University, expects resistance to reform. He doesn't look forward to delving into the curriculum, for example.
"If you start talking about me dealing with curriculum, I'm dead. That's the faculty's job," he said.