The search for a new president of the University of the District of Columbia has been narrowed to two men, according to members of the search committee interviewing candidates for the job.

Attorney Ronald H. Brown, former chairman of the university's board of trustees and head of the search committee, declined to name the two leading candidates to succeed current university President Lisle C. Carter Jr. But he said the panel hopes soon to choose one final candidate, whose name could be submitted to the board as soon as Wednesday.

Marjorie Parker, chairman of the UDC board, said the 14 trustees, who will make the final decision on the candidates, seem to be divided between those "who see the need for a strong administrator who may have had some political experience," and those "who feel a person who has had in-depth experience in higher education should be the one."

Carter was the university's first president after it was formed five years ago by a merger of three former schools, Washington Technical Institute, D.C. Teachers College and Federal City College. He opted not to renew his five-year contract for the job, which currently pays $59,000 a year.

The new president will take office at a time when the university, with just over 14,000 students, is still struggling to find an identity and reverse a widespread public perception that its academic standards are not of the first rank. With Carter's delicate job of uniting the three parent schools essentially completed, those familiar with the search said, the emphasis now, in large part, is on finding a president who will upgrade the school academically.

"We were looking for a person who can help assure the public perception of the university as a quality educational institution," Brown said. "We want someone who has demonstrated strong leadership and can deal with the many and varied constituencies at the college, the D.C. business community, the D.C. government and Congress."

University spokesman John Britton said that with the arrival of a new president, it may be "just the time" to set entrance standards for the school's various programs. The university currently has open admissions for all programs, and offers both four-year liberal arts and two-year technical programs.

Britton said a move to create admissions standards might improve the public image of the university and help the new president in "communicating the fact that our students are very well prepared to a business community that does not always perceive them as being properly prepared." Currently, many UDC students are enrolled in remedial courses.

None of the search committee members would reveal whether either of the two finalists is currently a university president.

Terry Thomas, representing UDC alumni on the search committee, said the eight members of the panel were seeking a candidate who could continue the unification of the three former institutions and who also had experience at fund raising, since fewer federal funds are now available to most universities.

Both Thomas and Joseph Webb, another alumni representative on the committee, said the committee looked for a president who could institute programs at UDC that would lead more students to enter professional schools in such areas as law and medicine. They also said the university must beef up programs, such as computer science, which train students in specific fields.

The salary for the new president has not yet been set, but it is likely to be about what Carter received, $59,000, those familiar with the selection process said. Carter also received $1,000 a month for housing. But the university recently purchased a $330,000 house on Rittenhouse Street NW.