The University of Maryland should become "smaller and better," cutting freshman admissions at College Park by 10 percent, consolidating its programs in Baltimore, and concentrating on science and international affairs, a major study recommended yesterday.

The $190,000 study, financed by the Carnegie Corporation and headed by Malcolm Moos, a former president of the University of Minnesota and aide to President Eisenhower, was requested by university president John S. Toll and the board of regents.

At a press conference yesterday, Toll praised the 295-page report warmly, but shied away from endorsing its specific recommendations. Toll said the general theme of the report -- that the university's academic programs should be upgraded, particularly in its graduate schools -- is in line with his own ideas.

Sheila Tolliver, education officer for Gov. Harry Hughes, said the report also is "consistent with the thrust that Gov. Hughes has supported for some time," though she questioned some of its recommendations for reorganizing the programs in Baltimore.

"The university should intensify its movement away from being an all-purpose state institution as it was in the 1960s," Moos said in his report, and instead become "a selective, high quality university."

At the press conference in the university's administration building at College Park, he said, "There's never been a great state university in the eastern part of the United States. Perhaps Maryland can correct that. They should take advantage of their opportunities."

The university has five divisions: the College Park campus; the Baltimore County campus; the Eastern Shore campus; the group of professional schools, including law and medicine, in Baltimore; and the University College, a program largely for older adults and military personnel. All told it serves more than 81,000 students, about 38,000 of them full-time. The state now provides $163.4 million to the university, about a third of the total budget.

Toll said the College Park campus -- the university's largest with about 37,500 students -- has raised admission standards for freshmen since he became president in 1978, and plans to become even more selective in 1983. The number of new freshmen enrolled this fall is about 4,600, down from a peak of about 5,100 in 1979. Moos recommended that the number drop to 4,150 by 1985.

Moos said Maryland should try to attract more of the state's top-flight students with strengthened honors programs and more scholarships tied to academic ability as well as need.

Currently, about half of the university's undergraduate students drop out, but Moos said that if the quality of the freshman class improves, dropouts could be cut to 30 percent, actually increasing the number of juniors and seniors and attracting high quality faculty members who want to teach bright undergraduates.

With fewer dropouts and more transfer students from two-year community colleges, Moos said, he expects the total enrollment at College Park to decline by less than 5 percent despite the reduction in freshman admissions.

He recommended that the undergraduate enrollments at the Baltimore County and Eastern Shore campuses remain at current levels and that graduate and professional school enrollments rise slightly, keeping total enrollment of the university about the same.

He urged the state legislature to raise faculty salaries and vote more funds for research, but he put no price tag on his recommendations. He said the university should make major efforts to increase its fundraising from alumni, corporations and other private sources.

"The margin of excellence is going to come from private money," he said, "to bolster the basic state support."

While upgrading the sciences and international studies, Moos suggested, the university should make "economies" elsewhere in its progam. He did not spell out which academic fields these economies could affect.

However, he said that merging the administration and duplicate programs at the university's Baltimore County and downtown professional campuses with the University of Baltimore, now a state college, could result in "significant savings."

Toll said he asked Moos in 1979 to make his study to serve as the basis for "possible new directions and long-range planning." The study involved four researchers in addition to Moos, wide consultation with experts on higher education around the country, and 26 task forces composed of the university's faculty.

Moos said the university's branch on the Eastern Shore, formerly an all-black state college, should "seek ever closer connections" with Salisbury State College, a mostly white school a few miles away. Eventually, he suggested, they should form a "new cooperative two-college complex," separate from the university.

But he said all campuses of the university and Maryland's 12 state colleges should be governed by one board of trustees, with its community colleges continuing to be governed by a separate board.

The result of his recommendations, Moos said, would be to give Maryland two "first-rate public research university centers," one in Baltimore and one in College Park.

State funding for all higher education, which now amounts to $317.5 million or about 10.5 percent of the state budget, should be raised, Moos said, to about 12 percent of the budget.

"To grow in quality in a time of financial constraint," Moos said, "universities need to accept the principle of substitution. That is, to race out into the academic growth fields of the 1990s, it is necessary to trim or discard some of the programs of the 1950s. Colleges can no longer afford, if they ever could, to keep growing like barnacles."