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We must seize opportunities
for excellence in management
February 22, 1999

About fourteen months ago, I wrote to the University community about a comprehensive assessment of management policies and procedures at the Storrs-based programs. As I said at that time, the University is in the midst of major and positive change. Within the past three years we have absorbed two early retirement incentive programs, vastly expanded private fund raising, moved full-speed ahead on a billion dollar building program, and continued our long-standing commitment to academic excellence.

President Philip Austin
President Philip E. Austin

For the executive summary,
click here.

Thanks in no small measure to a dedicated professional and support staff, we have continued to carry out routine operations with a high degree of effectiveness. I had come to believe, however, that it was time for us to look closely at our administrative practices, with a mind to how we can serve our students and meet the needs of our faculty even more effectively, while assuring Connecticut's taxpayers that they are getting maximum return on their investment.

To that end, I announced that we were initiating an external, objective and fact-based assessment of key administrative operations. With external financial support, we contracted with Coopers & Lybrand, one of the nation's foremost management consulting firms and one with experience at over 150 colleges and universities, to implement a major study focused on financial management, information technology, procurement, auxiliary and business services, sponsored research administration, and other administrative activities. Academic programs were explicitly placed beyond the range of the analysis because of the program assessment and priority-setting processes already in place.

Coopers & Lybrand staff arrived on campus late in the Fall 1997 semester. During the next several months they met with academic and administrative departments, interviewed almost 200 staff members, and held five focus group meetings with staff members from Storrs and the regional campuses.

Shortly before work on the project began, and again more recently, the Chancellor and I met with managers and union leaders to brief them on our objectives and on the overall findings of the report.

I want to express my deep appreciation to the many members of the university community who gave of their time, energy and advice in this important undertaking.

Report On-line
For the executive summary,
go here.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (successor to Coopers & Lybrand) submitted the final report to the University administration and the Board of Trustees last week. It was shared with key internal constituencies and then released to the public on February 18. I urge interested members of the community to look closely at the executive summary (available through the University's website) or the full, 500-page document, which is available at Babbidge Library and other sites on campus.

A study this comprehensive requires time to digest and to analyze. There are more than 100 specific recommendations in the report, and each one calls for careful review. It is important to reiterate, as I said when we began the study, that final decisions with regard to implementation of the recommendations will be made in accordance with established University procedures, including consideration by key constituencies, the administration, and, where appropriate, the Board of Trustees.

My own view is that the study presents a balanced view of where we are in terms of administrative services, where we should be, and what it will take to get us there. The analysis shows that according to most quantitative measures, we fare relatively well in comparison with peer institutions - and in areas where we do not, such as external fund raising, we are making dramatic improvements. In an environment characterized by sharp competition, heightened service expectations, and increasing demands for accountability we, like almost every other major university, can do much better.

The study identifies four key priorities for UConn over the next decade:

  • Implementation of a decentralized and improved budget process to provide greater flexibility in decision-making;

  • Adoption of a comprehensive information technology strategy;

  • Restructuring of the university's research grants administration system;

  • Improvement and enhancement of services provided to students.

As most members of the community know, the University has already set in motion plans to address many of these needs. In some regards, those plans may be accelerated or revised, and I expect that the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report will offer a valuable road map as we proceed. I do not anticipate that we will implement every specific recommendation in this massive document.

I do expect, however, that we will take advantage of any and all opportunities to achieve the same level of excellence in management that we are attaining in academics, construction, student services, athletics and virtually every other endeavor.

Change is never easy in any organization, large or small. Over the last few years here at UConn, change has been the order of the day.

I am sensitive to the challenge that has been presented to our administrative staff. I look forward to hearing from, and working with, the entire community as we plan strategies to address the needs outlined in this important report.