THE UNIVERSITY of the District of Columbia now has a master plan outlining the kinds of two and four-year programs, facilities and teaching faculty it intends to provide. Produced by faculty and staff, and with the approval of the university's trustees, this complex document is one of the final items needed to complete the creation of the nation's newest public university.

Decisions about public higher eduction in the District have never come easily. For more than 50 years, educators, members of Congress and local residents conducted protracted, often heated discussions about how to complement the courses offered at D.C. Teachers College. Some favored the traditional liberal arts approach, while others championed a career-oriented technical program. Congress did little to resolve the debate when, in 1968, it created Federal City College, with a four-year liberal arts curriculum, and Washington Technical Institute, with a two-year technical program. It soon became clear that the needs of the city would be better served if those schools were combined with D.C. Teachers College into one institution. Thus was UDC born.

The first signs of consolidation became visible last year. A university president was hired; he undertook the immediate and unpopular task of eliminating duplication in teaching and administration. To their credit, the university trustees, faculty, staff and students weathered that unsettling period well. What then was needed was a blending of the curricula of the three schools to preserve the diversity of course work, while eliminating the overlapping programs.

In fact, the recently approved plan does more than eliminate duplication. It indicates the way UDC will operate in the months and years ahead. Both certificate (two-year) and degree (four-year) programs will be offered, for example, as will studies on the graduate, post-graduate and "honors" level. There will be hundreds of courses, grouped into several colleges and schools: liberal arts, business and public management, life sciences, education and human ecology, physical sciences, engineering and technology. Perhaps most important, UDC will provide its students with a sound foundation for higher education. Freshmen will spend as much time as necessary in the "university college" taking basic and general programs in English, mathematics and the like, and receiving individual counseling so that they can be prepared for college-level studies. Thereafter, all students will be required to pass some specific courses in English composition, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences before moving to more specialized studies.

The new master plan must be approved by the City Council, signed by the mayor and forwarded to Congress. While some changes can take place even now, to move the merger along council members should give the plan timely and strong approval. The University of the District of Columbia deserves no less.