Leaders of Maryland’s state university system on Thursday announced a new series of initiatives to foster cooperation between the flagship University of Maryland in College Park and the graduate-school campus University of Maryland, Baltimore, a compromise between those who favored merging the two campuses and those who opposed it.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) last year proposed merging the flagship university with the campus that houses top-tier law and medical schools. State regents eventually rejected the merger, instead endorsing a more limited “strategic alliance.”
Merger would have elevated the university’s wealth and stature, at least on paper, and it might have fueled greater collaboration between faculty in College Park and Baltimore. But merger would have cost money and might have spawned new layers of bureaucracy, which would have cost more money. Cost may have been the decisive factor.
“In essence, we envision a new working relationship between the two universities — a relationship that demands teamwork and collaboration, with joint efforts championed and supported at the highest levels in our academic structure,” the regents wrote in a summary report. “We expect these changes to have a profound effect on our productivity, on the economy, and on the very fabric of higher education.”
The proposals released Thursday seek collaboration in several areas:
• A “major” academic initiative at the Universities of Shady Grove, a Montgomery County facility that currently houses programs for several public universities, including both the College Park and Baltimore. The initiative would combine the existing Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research with new programs in health, law and human services from the Baltimore campus, as well as several related programs from College Park.
• A new Collaborative School of Public Health, combining the current Master of Public Health program at College Park and an identically named program at Baltimore. Each university will retain autonomy, according to the university system report, a key distinction that leaves neither campus feeling it is the junior partner.
• A joint institute will promote collaborative commercial enterprises, including seeking patents, licensing and other “commercial outreach” involving both campuses.
• A new series of collaborative educational offerings for students. The University of Maryland Scholars program engage College Park undergraduates in research led by Baltimore faculty. More broadly, greater collaboration will be sought between undergraduate programs in College Park and graduate programs in Baltimore.