Howard University should toughen admission requirements, offer early retirement to the entire tenured staff of the medical school and eliminate or merge some of its schools, according to a commission that President Franklyn G. Jenifer appointed to assess the university.

In a preliminary report to be released today, the Howard University Commission also recommended making the passing of competency tests in foreign language and the use of computers a prerequisite for graduation. The commission also proposed that Howard develop institutes to strengthen its ties with the Third World.

The report's harshest criticism was directed at the College of Medicine, whose faculty was described as "totally out of touch with the latest trends in teaching equipment, technology and methods." In addition to recommending that the university offer early retirement to the 165 members of the medical school's tenured staff, the report urges giving the school's dean a discretionary fund to retain productive faculty.

The report also said the top-level administration at the medical school has been controlled "entirely, absolutely and exclusively" by graduates of the medical school, and cited its declining rate of faculty applications for research grants.

The recommendations are among dozens offered by the commission, which was appointed in July. Jenifer had directed the commission to identify ways Howard could best use its resources to remain the nation's premier historically black university.

The university's faculty and administrators have been anxious about the commission's findings -- some have called them the "redistribution of wealth report" -- because Jenifer is expected to use them as a basis for reallocating the university's financial resources.

Asked last night for his reaction, Charles H. Epps Jr., dean of the medical school, stressed that the report is preliminary. "I haven't had time to review it and at this point I'm not prepared to comment on it."

Jenifer said last night that the criticism of the medical school was aimed more at its research component than at the quality of education.

Hassan Minor Jr., Jenifer's aide who served as staff director for the commission, said he expects controversy over the report. "Everything that the commission identified as being deficient has a constituency that is going to be resistant to change," he said. "But the commission's work was thorough."

Soon after Jenifer became president in April, he said that Howard, like many private universities, had been devoting too much of its budget to administration. The university had expanded in the last decade in an attempt to address the needs of too large a constituency, he said.

Jenifer also said the university needed to take better advantage of its position as a school with the largest number of black scholars in the world.

The commission's report goes a long way toward addressing both those points. Howard's emphasis should be on research, the report said. For example, Howard should conduct research to solve the problems of school systems, instead of becoming heavily involved in offering remedial classes, the report said.

The report is to be distributed today to full-time faculty, elected student leaders and some alumni for comment. The commission may modify the report to reflect those comments. A final report will be given to Jenifer in January. The president will take his recommendations to the Board of Trustees in February.

LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., an oncological surgeon and chairman of the Department of Surgery at the Howard University College of Medicine, was chairman of the 34-member commission. Other members included Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund; lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr.; Delano E. Lewis, president and chief executive officer of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co.; Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. delegate-elect to Congress; and A. Barry Rand, president of the United States Marketing Group, Xerox Corp.

The commission recommended that Howard toughen undergraduate admissions, requiring a minimum score of 1,000 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. That standard would give Howard the highest minimum SAT requirement among historically black colleges, based upon admission information from the schools.

In 1990, the national average score on the SAT was 900, according to the College Board; for blacks, the average SAT score was 737. At Howard in 1989, about 50 percent of the incoming freshmen scored less than 1,000 on the SAT.

Graduation requirements would be stiffened too, if the recommendations are followed. Howard students would have to pass competency tests in English, foreign language, math, computers and communication skills. Those requirements, the commission said, would prepare them to enter a work force where they will need "the highest order of skills in language, mathematics, the use of computers and the ability to think critically and communicate effectively."

The panel reviewed each of Howard's 18 schools and colleges, sometimes offering biting criticism.

The commission recommended ending most programs offered by the School of Human Ecology. In fall 1989, the school enrolled 600 students in programs such as consumer science, human development, and human nutrition and food. Human ecology students had the lowest SAT scores at the university, the report said, and some of its programs essentially amounted to vocational training.

The commission said the university should close the colleges of Allied Health Sciences, Nursing, and Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences and consolidate their programs in a new School of Health Professions. The School of Education also should be closed, the report said, but some of its programs should be transferred to the College of Liberal Arts.

Howard also should establish institutes for Asian, Latino and Islamic studies, the report said.

The commission also recommended that the university upgrade its men's basketball program, saying that "a nationally ranked team should be attainable and feasible."