Smarter Systems for a Greater UT

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In April 2012 I appointed the Committee on Business Productivity to study UT’s business operations and to make recommendations on increasing our efficiency and effectiveness. The committee, consisting of 13 business leaders, submitted its report, “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT,” to me earlier this month. I’m very grateful to its members for their thorough and thoughtful work.

Earlier today I shared my thoughts on the report in a speech on the campus, and I want to convey a few of the highlights. The Committee studied three large areas of University operations:

  • Administrative Services. The decentralized structure of the University has served us well on the academic side of our operations. The Committee, however, concluded that the University was not as well served by similar decentralization of business processes. It therefore recommended consolidating certain transactional administrative functions in a shared administrative services model. Most of the savings in this area can be achieved through natural attrition over a multiple-year period.
  • Asset Utilization. The Committee recommended selling the excess power generated by UT on the open market and incentivizing units to conserve energy. Instead of continuing to operate parking, food, and housing a cost-recovery basis, it recommended a strategic and more market-based approach.
  • Technology Commercialization. The Committee recommended investments to streamline the process of licensing UT-generated technology and suggested the University focus on maximizing the volume of licenses, leaving to the private sector the business of picking “winners.” It also recommended organizational structures that would further promote an entrepreneurial culture on the campus.

Implementing these recommendations will be a thoughtful process that will happen over a period of several years. I am committed to a measured and inclusive process that will seek input from the community. Kevin Hegarty, our vice president and chief financial officer, has accepted the responsibility for driving this process forward, and I’m thankful for his leadership.

While change is always challenging, these initiatives will strengthen the University and infuse its core academic mission with new resources and energy. Ultimately, the more efficient our business systems become, the better we can serve our students and the people of Texas.

The Committee’s report and the full text of my speech are online at: http://bit.ly/smartersystems

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Comments

  1. Macon Leighton says:

    Mr. Powers,

    Though unable to attend the presentation today for the findings of the Committee on Business Productivity, I have read over your synopsis. Overall, I have only one question:

    How will these suggestions help students?

    Nothing in your summary appears to be aimed at lowering the skyrocketing cost of tuition. Nothing about the extra fees and costs of attending college is mentioned. In fact, one portion could be interpreted such that a cost increase is in the future -

    “Asset Utilization… Instead of continuing to operate parking, food, and housing a cost-recovery basis, it recommended a strategic and more market-based approach.”

    In a free market, scarcity equals a rise in cost. Is anything more scarce at UT Austin than parking? A market based approach to parking passes would pretty much abandon all student hope of having an automobile anywhere within 10 blocks of campus. And what of housing? Apartment dwellers shudder at the words, “market rate,” because you are virtually guaranteed a hefty increase over your average rent.

    I look forward to seeing a cost analysis showing how savings will be applied to helping students defer the costs of attendance and helping the University as a University, instead of how increased “efficiency and effectiveness” further monetize the University as a business.