Guidelines for the Development of Applied Partnership Degree Programs Information

Submitted November 5, 1998

Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) signed on January 15, 1998, the Partnership Agreement for Public Higher Education. The agreement provides an opportunity for the University of Minnesota to reflect on its experiences with applied partnership degree programs with community colleges in the Twin Cities, which evolved from the 1993 statement on partnerships, and to develop a general set of guidelines for new applied partnership degree programs. The January 1998 Partnership Agreement expands upon the earlier agreement, and recognizes the need for additional creative and strategic collaborations between the two public systems.

In 1993, the Twin Cities Higher Education Partnership recognized that the educational needs of students and employers locally, regionally, nationally, and globally were changing very rapidly. It further recognized that public higher education institutions in Minnesota had entered a period of tight fiscal constraints in which improved collaboration and responsiveness were more critical than ever in making the best use of available state resources. Subsequently, the Board of Regents approved the four applied degree programs on the dates noted below:

Bachelor of Information Networking June 1993
Bachelor of Applied Business July 1993
Bachelor of Emergency Health Services January 1996
Bachelor of Construction Management January 1996

This document frames a set of values and principles to guide thinking about applied partnership degree programs, articulates a set of criteria to be used in evaluating extant and proposed partnership degree programs, and suggests a strategy for identifying future collaborative efforts. Although the guidelines were developed vis-à-vis the applied partnership degree programs offered through University College in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, the same considerations apply for collaborative efforts between the University of Minnesota and MnSCU elsewhere in Minnesota.

Partnership degrees are innovative, career-oriented, baccalaureate degree programs, offered by a baccalaureate degree granting public institution in Minnesota, and are best delivered by collaboration between partner institutions. The four-fold rationale is based on the premise that a new type of applied baccalaureate degree program is essential to keep Minnesota citizens competitive in a global economy, and that continuing education and lifelong learning are essential in a knowledge-based society,

First, the partnership degree programs recognize and respond to the growing need for a new type of applied, career-oriented baccalaureate degree program. They blend appropriate levels of the "how" and the "why" of knowledge, and are developed with all of the necessary educational, structural and procedural integrity common to University of Minnesota degree programs.

Second, the partnership degree programs are a direct response to workforce needs and issues being discussed by businesses and industries. Businesses and industries of the 21st century will require an increasingly skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

Third, all partnership degree programs address the need to identify creative institutional strategies to use limited state resources in an effective and efficient manner.

Fourth, the University of Minnesota is uniquely equipped to provide specialized course work that is the foundation for certain leading edge career fields consistent with the land-grant mission of the University.

As a Research I, land-grant institution in a major urban center, the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities has an appropriately broader set of degree programs than institutions having only one of the above defining characteristics. Fundamental to the land-grant concept is access by Minnesota citizens to degree programs that contribute to the evolving needs of the state’s businesses and industries. Location in a large metropolitan area that includes numerous highly sophisticated and technical businesses and industries adds yet another dimension in determining the range and nature of the degree programs offered by the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. One of the strengths of the institution is the range and quality of its course offerings and degree programs.

Principles to Guide Thinking about Degree Programs

Fundamental to any degree program offered by the University of Minnesota is a core group of University faculty committed to working together to offer a high quality degree program. In an era in which educational needs cannot always be met within the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines or even single campuses, some of the models successfully used in interdisciplinary graduate education can be applied in designing applied baccalaureate degree programs. In considering a new partnership degree program, the University of Minnesota must first consider whether the opportunities realized by offering the degree (e.g., attracting new students and additional income sources) outweigh the possible negative consequences (e.g., reducing time available for other undergraduate and graduate programs, faculty research, and outreach activities) of redirection of faculty effort in the collegiate units involved.

A set of assumptions about University College serves as the basis for discussions about partnership degree programs. The first is that University College is a University-wide vehicle for offering partnership degree programs. A second assumption is that degree-granting delivery of University of Minnesota degrees via University College is limited to partnership degree programs and the degrees offered through the Program in Individualized Leaning and the Inter-College Program. The third assumption is that discussions about central funding for partnership degree programs occur as part of the annual planning and budget discussions between the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and University College. The fourth assumption is that some of the partnership degree programs to be offered in the metropolitan area and greater Minnesota may be awarded by MnSCU institutions, even though much of the coursework may be delivered by current University of Minnesota collegiate units. The following set of principles is suggested as the foundation for discussions about partnership degree programs:

The degree program must be consistent with institutional values, contribute to the accomplishment of the University’s mission, and reflect strategic directions for its academic programs.

The degree program balances liberal education outcomes with the provision of specific technical skills.

The degree program is an appropriate baccalaureate-level degree program and does not imply a level of preparation more appropriate for post-baccalaureate professional education.

Criteria for formal admission to a partnership degree program are consistent with quality standards used for admission to other degree programs in the collegiate unit(s) involved.

The degree program cannot be delivered entirely by one of the colleges on the Twin Cities campus of the University.

The degree program is more effectively and efficiently delivered by a partnership between Minnesota’s two public higher education systems, and provides enrolled students with a better educational experience because of the partnership between the institutions.

Naming of the degree programs balances generality versus specificity, so that titles convey a broad focus appropriate for a baccalaureate degree, are not too time-bound in their meaning, and yet clearly convey the core knowledge domain studied by students.

Program-specific courses are designed in response to needs identified by business and industry representatives who participate in the curriculum design process.

Offering the degree program through the University of Minnesota employs its unique resources consistent with appropriate mission differentiation vis-à-vis the state universities, the community colleges, and the technical colleges.

Degree programs should respond to demonstrated "gaps" in program availability in the Twin Cities metropolitan area or in other parts of the state.

No partnership degree program unnecessarily duplicates any existing degree program(s) in any college or campus of the University of Minnesota.

Degree programs should be delivered to students such that their access to courses offered by partner institutions is "seamless" (i.e., no need to navigate two different registration systems).

The institution awarding the degree should be evident to students upon initial application for admission to the degree program.

Certain partnership degree programs might be offered by other institutions, such as Metropolitan State University, in a partnership involving two-year colleges and University of Minnesota resources.

Degree programs should incorporate appropriate instructional technology to enable students to learn effectively and efficiently.

In most cases, the coursework most appropriately delivered by the University of Minnesota should consist of upper-division coursework in the major field of study.

The curriculum should be delivered in a manner and in locations compatible with the schedules of working adults.

Development and approval of degrees must involve appropriate consultation with leadership and faculty in appropriate colleges of the University.

A core group of tenured University of Minnesota faculty, often housed in different departments or collegiate units, is ultimately responsible for the degree program, although ad hoc committees provide curriculum design.

Applied, partnership degree programs must be evaluated on a periodic basis, at which point the program’s viability is evaluated based on program quality, value to students and employers, program demand, and financial considerations.

Criteria for Program Review and Evaluation

Although the six criteria noted below are fundamental, another set of broader questions serves as the context for applying the criteria for partnership degree programs. Those questions include the following: What are the educational needs of residents of the metropolitan area, and does the partnership degree program respond to the economic development needs of the area? In partnership with MnSCU, does the University of Minnesota have the capacity to respond to those needs, and what strategic investments are necessary to build faculty expertise to respond to future needs? Are there institutional and inter-system strategic issues that need to be identified to guide decision-making about the institution to offer a particular partnership degree? What are the relevant institutional performance measures to be used in evaluating the positive and negative effects of developing the new partnership degree program?

The issues to be addressed in proposing partnership degree programs are identical to those used in the submission of all new degree program proposals for approval by the Board of Regents. Appendix A is a copy of the outline used in summarizing information for submission to the Board of Regents. Implicit in that review process are the six fundamental criteria to guide decision making about academic programs offered by the University of Minnesota, including all degree programs delivered in partnership with MnSCU institutions. Those six criteria, first articulated in A Commitment to Focus in 1986, are as appropriate today as when first proposed a decade ago:

Quality: The degree to which the program provides high quality educational opportunities consistent with the mission of the University of Minnesota.

Uniqueness: The extent to which the degree program offers opportunities for students that are not available elsewhere in Minnesota, especially in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Connectedness: The extent to which the degree program connects with and relates to other degree programs on the Twin Cities campus rather than exists as an isolated degree program.

Integration: The extent to which the degree program’s various components and services are coherent and internally consistent in meeting the educational needs of Minnesota and the seven-county metropolitan area.

Demand: The extent to which student demand for the degree program is present or is projected for the future.

Cost-effectiveness: The extent to which the degree program costs are commensurate with the outcomes, build upon current academic resources, and can be operated at reasonable costs.

Current Status of Partnership Degrees

Each of the programs was to be continued for a four-year period, at which point the program’s viability will be evaluated based on program quality, value to students and employers, retention and graduation rates, program demand, and financial considerations. Only the first two partnership degree programs have been in existence long enough to expect to have had graduates. Three students have completed the B.I.N., and eight students have completed the B.A.B..

Many of the active students (i.e., students who have expressed interest in the program and have taken at least one class) are MnSCU students who are exploring the program but are not yet formally University of Minnesota students. The information presented below was current as of the beginning of fall 1998.

Bachelor of Applied Business
Bachelor of Info Networking
Bachelor of Emer Hlth Srvcs
Bachelor of Construction Mgmt

Number Active
Number Graduates
At Admission Mean Age
At Admission Mean GPA

Process for Creating Future Partnership Degrees

The January 1998 Partnership Agreement for Public Higher Education places the development of additional partnership degree programs within the broader context of increased cooperation between the two public systems to meet the higher education needs of Minnesota citizens and Minnesota’s businesses and industries. The higher education organizational structure in place when the first partnership degrees were created has changed, and that change has implications for both the current as well as any future partnership degree programs. Furthermore, since the program review and approval function of the Higher Education Coordination Board was eliminated effective July 1, 1995, there is no longer a statewide process to review proposals for new degree programs.

Given the articulation of the above guidelines and principles, how might they guide our current thinking about the four current partnership degree programs? The four partnership degree programs were conceived and developed in the context of an organizational structure for public higher education in Minnesota that no longer exists. The four partnership degree programs were designed to enable students to complete a University of Minnesota degree by completing designated coursework in selected community colleges in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Although the degree programs have much in common relative to their genesis and philosophy, each is quite distinct. Variations exist relative to the needs being addressed, the existence of degree programs offered by other institutions in MnSCU, preliminary evidence about the educational levels of individuals applying for admission to the degree programs, and the feasibility of delivering the degree programs at sites throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The 1998 Partnership Agreement indicates that the two public systems "agree to join in joint strategic planning, develop incentives for implementing partnerships, and streamline the process for approving and implementing cooperative activities." As an important first step in that direction, the chief academic officers of both systems (the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of MnSCU and the Executive Vice President and Provost of the University of Minnesota) will co-chair an Inter-System Policy Committee, which will provide oversight and a coordinating mechanism for joint working groups. One of the first joint working groups to be appointed will be one charged with responsibility for addressing inter-system issues relative to extant and future applied partnership degree programs.

Since the rationale for the partnership degree programs emphasizes that the career-oriented baccalaureate degree programs are responsive to the documented need for a new type of degree program, one of the first tasks is the development of a vehicle for the systematic identification of new program needs. The 1998 Partnership Agreement suggested that future collaborations might lead to partnership degree programs in agriculture, food production, health care, technology, and other fields. Businesses and industries that have identified gaps in the availability of educational programs need a clear point of access to those within the University of Minnesota, who in consultation with similar staff in MnSCU, explore the feasibility of developing a particular new educational program.

The following steps should be followed in developing and proposing new partnership degree programs:

Step 1: In this informal process, University College staff, together with leadership and faculty in University of Minnesota collegiate units, consult with business and industry, in collaboration with representatives of MnSCU, to identify educational programs suitable for further exploration as partnership degrees.

Step 2: After their consultation with the units involved, University College consults with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost for approval to proceed to the curriculum design phase.

Step 3: Appointment of curriculum design committee that includes representation of faculty from University units, faculty from partner institution(s), and business and industry representatives from the sectors the partnership degree program is intended to serve.

Step 4: Review and approval by University College Academic Council with simultaneous reporting to the Twin Cities Assembly Committee on Educational Policy.

Step 5: Review and approval by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

Step 6: Review and approval by the Board of Regents and, as appropriate, simultaneous review and approval by the MnSCU Board of Trustees.


For Further Information:

Dr. Darwin D. Hendel
Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost
234 Morrill Hall
University of Minnesota
100 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: (612) 625-0129
Fax: (612) 624-6057

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