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New Strategic Academic Plan for UC Berkeley outlines vision for the campus in the decades ahead

In this letter to the campus community, Chancellor Robert Berdahl unveils a new Strategic Academic Plan to guide Berkeley in the coming years.

To the campus community:

Not only does UC Berkeley have a long and great history of achievement, both in creating new knowledge and in imparting this knowledge to generations of future leaders, but we remain today the best public research university in the world. And yet, the past several years have presented us with many formidable challenges: the rapid expansion of research in areas, such as the health sciences, that require the integration of multiple academic disciplines; the substantial capital investment required to improve the seismic safety of campus buildings; the enormous increase in both the number and the cultural diversity of college-age Californians; and, most recently, the state budget deficit and its potential impacts on all state and local public institutions.

Strategic Academic Plan

• Read the Strategic Academic Plan (456K PDF file)

• Read the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate's Comments on the Strategic Academic Plan

• Read the Chancellor's Response to the Academic Senate's Comments

It became clear to us that, in order not just to meet these challenges, but to meet them in ways that make us a stronger institution, we required a common understanding of the critical academic needs of the campus. In fall 2000, we established a new committee composed of representatives from the faculty and executive leadership, campus staff, and graduate and undergraduate students, and charged this committee with preparing a Strategic Academic Plan for UC Berkeley. Over the next two years, the committee met regularly, posted draft versions of the plan on the web for review, and held open campus forums in spring 2001, fall 2001, and spring 2002 to solicit the ideas of the larger campus community.

This final version of the Strategic Academic Plan describes the critical challenges UC Berkeley faces in the coming years, recommends principles and proposals to address these challenges, and outlines a comprehensive strategy for implementation. We have already taken the first steps on several proposals presented in the Plan:

  • The Plan recommends a yearly 'State of the Campus' address by the Chancellor. This fall I will make the first such address to the Academic Senate, in which I will outline the priorities and initiatives I intend to pursue in the coming year.
  • The Plan recommends a more coherent and rigorous process and criteria for the review of academic programs, to ensure the Berkeley standard of excellence is maintained in every program we offer. We have designed a pilot version of this process and are testing it on two programs this year. Based on this experience, we will then finalize this process and apply it to five or more programs each year.
  • The Plan recommends the campus identify emerging new academic themes, and select the most promising of these for encouragement and investment. This process is underway, with over 30 percent of the academic community participating in the initial round of proposals in fall 2002. A distinguished external review team has praised UC Berkeley for this inclusive approach to program building, and is working with the campus to identify those proposals most ready for investment.
  • The Plan recognizes housing as a critical element of the academic enterprise, and sets ambitious goals to meet the future housing needs of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty. The campus has now established new housing objectives for 2020 based on these goals, and over 40% of these units are already under construction or in design.
  • The Plan recognizes the substantial need for renewal of the campus, to ensure our aging physical plant can continue to meet the performance demands of modern instruction and research. Based on the principles of the Strategic Academic Plan, the campus has prepared the New Century Plan, which outlines a physical vision of the campus that not only meets our future academic needs, but also ensures the unique environmental quality of the campus and the city around it is preserved and enhanced.
  • We have also begun work on a new Long Range Development Plan for the campus, which will describe the scope of capital investment at UC Berkeley through the year 2020. The Strategic Academic Plan and the New Century Plan provide the framework of principles and goals for the investment objectives to be presented in the 2020 LRDP.

It should be clear from these initiatives that the Strategic Academic Plan has already begun to help shape the future of UC Berkeley, in response to changes both on campus and in the world around us. This does not, however, mean our work on the Plan is done. On the contrary, we have always realized the Plan must remain a living, evolving document, and in fact the very process of creating this inaugural version of the Plan has revealed a number of topics that require further consideration in the months ahead.

  • One is campus diversity. While the Plan affirms a vital and diverse intellectual community as essential to UC Berkeley, it is clear we must make greater efforts to ensure our own community reflects the rich cultural diversity of California itself. I also believe the campus needs to take a leadership role by re-examining the concept of diversity in the light of changes in the world. We need to consider how religious and cultural perspectives, international influences, immigration, and growing economic disparities might alter our definition of diversity, and how our curricular and extra-curricular programs can embrace these broader definitions.
  • Another is the future of the humanities. As the Plan reminds us, the remarkable breadth and depth of our academic programs is a defining characteristic of UC Berkeley, and the future allocation of resources must ensure our humanities programs remain as strong as those in the sciences and professions.
  • We must also increase our efforts to improve the organizational structures, systems, and technology that enable our staff to perform at a high level. Our work on the Strategic Academic Plan, and the magnitude of the challenges before us, has only served to emphasize the central role our staff play in achieving and sustaining excellence at UC Berkeley.

These few examples only serve to remind us that, in many respects, the process of developing a plan for the future is as important as the plan itself. However, this initial version of the Strategic Academic Plan provides the campus with an excellent set of principles and proposals, and I have already begun to organize our senior management team to support implementation of the Plan and its companion infrastructure. I will make annual status reports and, in 2005-2006, ask the campus to undertake a progress review of the entire Plan to ensure it remains a living and evolving document. I urge you to read the Plan and share our vision of the campus as we move into the new century.

Robert M. Berdahl

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