The University of Virginia is one step closer to getting a new five-year strategic plan.
A committee of the Board of Visitors approved it Thursday afternoon, and the full board is expected to vote on it today.
The strategic plan lays out the university’s goals and priorities over the next five years, including a revamped advising system, new interdisciplinary research institutes and new international programs for students.
Ultimately, administrators want UVa to move up in academic rankings and in the amount of research dollars it brings in.
But the plan is missing one thing — a price tag.
Speaking to the Special Committee for Strategic Planning, university President Teresa A. Sullivan said it’s impossible to predict the overall cost of the plan at this point.
Administrators don’t know how the market will look in a few years, or exactly how the money is going to be spent.
“Any strategic plan that involves looking ahead five years means a certain horizon of uncertainty,” she said. “There is no business today that puts forth a five-year strategic plan and knows exactly where every dollar will come from.”
Sullivan said the plan is a roadmap for the university’s goals. Ultimately, she said, the board will decide what needs to be cut, added or re-prioritized each budget year.
But she asked the board to act quickly. The university has to begin working on these strategies now, she said, or else it will fall behind competitors.
“If we approve this now, we will have a competitive advantage over other universities that want to recruit the very same students, want to recruit the very same faculty,” Sullivan said.
The committee unanimously passed the plan, sending it to the full board. But a couple of members expressed reservation about moving forward without a cost estimate.
Frank E. Genovese said he would have liked to have seen an estimate, even if it ended up being off by tens of millions of dollars. Leaving it to the yearly budget cycle leaves a lot of unknowns, he said.
“I worry about the contentiousness later, if we don’t have at least a framework of the financials,” Genovese said.
Another member, Dr. Edward D. Miller, said the plan would inevitably have to be scaled back.
“Somehow we have to balance this — what programs do we want to build and what programs are we not going to be able to build?” Miller said. “That is the reality of it.”
The plan itself is far-reaching and includes initiatives touching on nearly every aspect of the university. Among the proposals are setting aside research seed money for new faculty, creation of a new global internship placement program and upgrading research equipment.
Board member Linwood H. Rose, former president of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, said it’s important for the university to act quickly.
“While we’re not really to the point of having a complete package to approve, I just think we’ve got to get started,” Rose said. “I think all of us would agree that advising is something we’d like to improve, not next year, but today or tomorrow.”
The full board will meet this afternoon in the Rotunda.
The board also is expected to vote on a new mission statement for the university that stresses its role as a public institution, which was approved by the Educational Policy Committee on Thursday.
The current mission statement, written in 1985, says the university’s central purpose is to “enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understanding the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it.” It does not reference UVa’s public status.
The revision, which was written by members of the Faculty Senate, spells out UVa’s role as a “public institution of higher learning” and says it serves “the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation and the world,” through teaching, research and patient care.
Dr. Chris P. Holstege, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said the changes were inspired in part by mission statements at other top universities, but also lay out what faculty members said they believe should be the university’s central focus.
“Our mission statement, I think, is concise — it’s to the point of what we think the university should do,” Holstege said.