Several graduate programs with low enrollments in recent years are expected to be phased out at the University of Illinois.
After an extensive review of all 98 doctoral programs on the Urbana campus earlier this year, campus officials are recommending the closure of six specific doctoral programs in the areas of education, engineering and biology.
"We're in the early stages of the process," said Provost Ilesanmi Adesida, who shared the list of programs recommended for closure with members of the academic and student affairs committee of the UI Board of Trustees. The committee met Wednesday in Springfield.
The programs recommended to be eliminated include the educational doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in special education; the Ed.D. in human resources education; Ed.D. music education; Ph.D. environmental science in civil engineering; physiological and molecular plant biology concentration in the Ph.D. in biology; and the higher education concentration in educational organization and leadership Ed.D.
In addition, some programs are being considered for restructuring, which could entail reviewing the curriculum or ramping up marketing efforts, Adesida said. Those include the Ph.D. program in veterinary clinical medicine, Ph.D. in Italian, Ph.D. in Portuguese and the Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction.
The review, which grew out of a Stewarding Excellence review from 2010 but ended up becoming its own, specific review focused on doctoral programs, involved committees examining several different factors. Committee members looked at program demand, program reliance on state funds, time to degree, mentoring and advising, student publications, faculty/advisee ratios, and more. It also entailed student surveys.
"It was an introspective exercise," Adesida said. "How well are we educating our students?"
Several "low-hanging fruits" emerged because of very low enrollment, he said.
Following the extensive review, the Graduate College, which administers graduate education on the campus, plans to initiate regular reviews of Ph.D. programs on a four-year cycle.
Adesida acknowledged that there is a fear among some educators and graduate students across the country that as some colleges close humanities programs, they will wake up one morning to learn their programs have closed.
That's not happening here, he said.
"At Illinois we make sure we go through the processes," Adesida said.
As an example, he listed the master of science degree in general engineering expected to be formally eliminated by university trustees Thursday. That degree program, which has been winding down for several years, saw its final student graduate in May. The history behind its planned closure dates to 2006 when the College of Engineering (where Adesida was dean until August) changed the name of the Department of General Engineering to the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering. That prompted the creation of a new graduate degree in Systems and Entrepreneurial Engineering and the intent to eliminate the master's degree in general engineering.
Before they can be offered by the campus, new degree programs undergo a rigorous review process, with steps that include analysis and discussion by Academic Senate committees, said Urbana Senate Chairman Matt Wheeler. Eliminating a program is a similar process, he said, with review conducted by the senate and eventually the board of trustees.
All six programs on the list are in various stages of closure, but all will go to the senate for review and ultimately before trustees, Adesida said.