UNT regents to discuss merging campuses

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The University of North Texas system is considering the reorganization of UNT in Denton and the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth into a single academic institution, according to an announcement made Friday.

The UNT Board of Regents will discuss the proposal during its regular meeting Thursday and decide whether to conduct a study on the benefits and disadvantages of the reorganization, Chancellor Lee Jackson said.

To combine the campuses, the UNT system will have to get approval from the governor, the state Legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The reason UNT can consider the change is because the University of Texas system and the Texas A&M University system have led the way.

“We haven’t really had that option in Texas, and now that we do, we are going to seriously consider it to see if it will enhance both UNT and the health science center,” Jackson said.

The UT system will have the first medical school in the state to become part of a university, he said.

If UNT moves forward with the reorganization of the two campuses, it will become the third university in the state to do so, Jackson said.

The model of having medical schools included in universities isn’t a new one, but they all have different models, he said. The only aspect these universities have in common is that they have one president, he said.

Because UNT is in the very early stages of considering this model, it isn’t clear what the reorganization will look like, Jackson said.

It could take one to three years to establish this model, depending on accreditation, state budgets and the necessary policy development, he said.

The university system will study it for several months, he added.

“Most of the major research universities in America are organized this way,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the institution would be perceived stronger if it’s larger and if research dollars are consolidated.

It also offers more collaboration and stronger funding, he said.

Scott Ransom, president of the UNT Health Science Center, was not taking calls on the subject.

UNT President Lane Rawlins said he learned Friday morning that the matter was coming before the regents next week.

He said he and Jackson had discussed the matter informally, and he did not think the idea was radical.

When Rawlins first came to the university, he asked why the health science center wasn’t a part of UNT because, “It’s a model I’m used to,” he said.

He said he saw similar models at the University of Alabama system and the University of Washington, although both were a little different.

Rawlins said it could benefit the students because it could expand the number of health science programs, pre-medical students could move more easily into medical programs and the two campuses could work more closely on the basic sciences.

But there also are disadvantages to consider, Rawlins said.

“I think that’s why a study is the right way to go,” he said.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is rmehlhaff@dentonrc.com.


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