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UT-Arlington Becomes Latest Emerging Research University To Reach 'Texas Tier One' Status

A tower lit by blue and orange lights displays the University of Texas at Arlington logo as an entry into the campus.
Elias Valverde II
/
The Shorthorn
The campus of the University of Texas at Arlington.

The University of Texas at Arlington has become the fourth university in the state to be considered a Texas Tier One university, a designation awarded to emerging research universities as part of the state’s effort to help them achieve national recognition as major research centers.

The designation will allow UT-Arlington to tap into an additional $6.2 million in state funding, a modest amount compared to the $125 million the university spent on research overall in 2020.

But university officials say the designation highlights the investment UT-Arlington is making in its research operations, which range from studies in aviation technology and Texas’ transportation infrastructure to natural disaster planning and health disparities.

“This is a game changer for UTA that has been nearly 12 years in the making,” said Teik C. Lim, interim president of The University of Texas at Arlington, in a press release. “Texas Tier One designation is a public invitation to take a fresh look at UTA’s academic and research excellence and the impact this special University is making on the region, the state of Texas and beyond.”

It also means Texas is making progress in state leaders’ goal of increasing the number of “tier one” universities in the state.

Universities reach this status under Texas’ National Research University Fund when they spend more than $45 million on restricted research two years in a row, and meet four of six optional requirements two years in a row, including awarding more than 200 doctorates every year and enrolling a “freshman class with high academic achievement.”

UT-Arlington joins Texas Tech University and the University of Houston, which qualified in 2012, and the University of Texas at Dallas, which qualified in 2018.

The Texas Legislature created the NRUF in 2009 to help funnel research dollars toward eight emerging research schools since that type of funding is often provided to flagship universities, like the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.

According to a March report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the University of Texas at San Antonio is the next closest to reaching this designation, and could be officially approved as early as 2022. In 2020, it met three of the four required criteria and spent $56 million on research.

The University of Texas at El Paso spent more than $45 million on research in 2019 and 2020, but met just one of the other four necessary criteria to qualify. It does not have the potential to reach those criteria in 2021. Texas State University and the University of North Texas did not meet the research spending threshold in 2020, and neither are on track to reach it in 2021 either, the report stated.

In an email to the UT-Arlington campus community, Lim said that achieving the Texas Tier One status was one of his four goals during his tenure as interim president. He took the helm after the previous president, Vistasp Karbhari, stepped down last March after the university system began investigating potential recruiting and enrollment practices at the university. The UT System recently announced it’s resuming a search for a new permanent president after pausing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UT-Arlington, Texas Tech, the University of North Texas and UT-Dallas were designated Carnegie Tier One universities in 2016, when the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, listing the universities among 115 schools nationwide ranked highest for research activity.

UT-Austin, Texas A&M, Rice University and the University of Houston are also considered “Carnegie Tier One” universities.

Disclosure: Rice University, Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Houston, Texas A&M University and University of North Texas have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/19/ut-arlington-tier-one/.