Baylor officially announces plans to become R1 institution

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By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer

Baylor formally announced plans to join the top tier of American research universities by pursuing the Research 1 classification.

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education defines its R1 classification as one given to universities with “very high research activity.” 130 schools currently hold the R1 classification.

Baylor is one of 131 schools holding an R2 classification, which is given to universities which display “high research activity” and is the tier below R1.

Baylor provost Dr. Nancy Brickhouse said that pursuing the R1 classification is about recognizing and validating the research taking place at Baylor.

“I think that our goal, really, is to have an impact on the world, to have a positive impact on the world, and research is a very important way in which universities can do that,” Brickhouse said. “The R1 designation in many ways is confirmation that you’ve achieved that.”

Members of the Baylor community may already know of the university’s plans to become an R1 institution. Brickhouse said Wednesday’s announcement was a chance for Baylor to clarify its goals and get the word out beyond the immediate community.

“It was really more for the external audience… and to also [be] more clear about what that means for us and what we need to do to get there,” Brickhouse said.

Brickhouse also said Baylor is roughly 10 years away from being able to achieve the R1 designation, though that number could change with factors like the university’s financial situation.

For some like Dr. Charles Weaver, chair of Baylor’s department of psychology and neuroscience, R1 recognition would be the culmination of decades of work.

“It’s the mission that many of us have been working toward for 20 or even 30 years,” Weaver said. “It’s certainly not the only way a university can be distinguished, but it is the path that most of the research-intensive universities in the country aspire to, and that is who we consider to be our peers at this point.”

Carnegie has requirements and formulas to determine which schools qualify for the R1 designation, but the ways of satisfying those requirements varies by university. Brickhouse outlined the ways Baylor will need to improve in order to reach its goal.

“We have a very good sense of what we need to do,” Brickhouse said. “We need to increase our research expenditures, we need to increase our research doctorates and we need to increase our research staff… where we’re farthest away is on the research expenditures and on the research staff.”

Weaver said day-to-day work for faculty members likely won’t see any significant changes but that the “relative focus” of the work may shift.

“We’re going to continue to teach very well, we’re going to continue to do all of the things that faculty members do,” Weaver said. “There’s been a greater emphasis on scholarly productivity, generation of new knowledge, new Ph.Ds and the securing of research funding to be able to do that.”

In Wednesday’s statement, president Dr. Linda Livingstone said the world “needs a preeminent research university that is unambiguously Christian.” Weaver agreed and said Baylor’s faith-based mission would only make an R1 classification more impressive.

“To be an R1 university… is an impressive accomplishment, but other universities do that [as well],” Weaver said. “For a university to do it while still maintaining what Baylor holds dear— that’s a real accomplishment.”

Weaver also explained how Baylor can balance its Christian values with the scientific research expected of an R1 institution.

“Baylor is at its best when we don’t feel as if our faith mission is under attack— when we’re secure in our knowledge of holding true to the historical mission of the university,” Weaver said. “Then we feel free to go where the science leads us.”