Measuring Productivity and Efficiency at a Research University

At UT Austin, we’re working every day to improve the student experience and our academic outcomes.

I have created a task force, which convened in July, to work on increasing our graduation rates. As I said in my May speech on the future of the public research university, raising our four-year graduation rate is one of the most effective ways we can lower costs for Texas families and increase capacity at UT.

This effort is consistent with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence Action Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents on August 25. The framework addresses student success, faculty productivity, higher education costs, and many other factors.

I want to call your attention to some related comparative data taken from a study conducted by UT Austin sociology professor and associate dean Marc Musick:

  • UT Austin’s six-year graduation rate of 81% is 13th out of 120 American public research universities.
  • We rank 10th out of those 120 universities in the percentage of students graduating for every taxpayer and tuition dollar received.
  • We are 2nd in the number of faculty employed for every taxpayer and tuition dollar received.

Based on these objective measures, UT Austin is near the top in efficiency among the nation’s public universities.

Of course there is much room for improvement. Our four-year graduation rate of 53% is not good enough. Michigan and Berkeley graduate about 70% of their undergraduates in four years. We must identify and remove the obstacles to timely graduation at UT Austin.

Public research universities must be good stewards of the public trust—and public resources. I am committed to making UT Austin an even more efficient university.

Hook ‘em Horns,

Bill's Signature

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  1. Eric M. Larson says:

    It would be useful for the University of Texas at Austin to help establish, using empirical (and publicly disclosed) evidence, a real-world standard for “measuring productivity and efficiency at a research university.” It would also be useful to take a larger perspective on innovation, such as by incorporating some of the perspectives from private sector organizations—one example, is The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, located in Washington, D.C.; their URL is It is clearly time to identify better ways of quantifying productivity and efficiency in the research university context. Finally, some of these rating systems (like the U.S. News & World Report rankings of universities) are useful for some general purposes, but they don’t capture the dimensions of impact needed to evaluate the effectiveness/outcomes. I do think Gov. Perry has a point, and the challenge flag is waving.