Thursday, August 6, 2009

The UCLA Restructuring Playbook

The document below helps to explain how UCLA is going about changing our program and other undergraduate programs. Some of the major considerations are reducing the total number of classes, reducing requirements, switching courses to summer and extension, increasing fees, and using technology to make big classes more effective. I will comment on all of this below.

“A time for reappraisal
To streamline academic programs, departments will be reviewing requirements for majors and minors and reducing maximum units. General education requirements will be reviewed as well. The number of total courses will be reduced, but departments will need to make sure that undergraduates have the essential courses they need to make progress toward their degree, Waugh emphasized.

Departments will also increase the percentage of ladder faculty who are teaching high-priority courses. To become more efficient, departments will be consolidating similar basic skills courses, as well as administrative and computing services. And the use of educational technology will expand, if possible, to increase efficiency and sustain quality while class sizes increase.

In addition, task forces will form this summer to help specific academic areas — including foreign language departments and the writing programs — save money. "This is not aimed at creating cuts to the humanities," which will be most heavily impacted by the cuts in terms of cost of instruction, Waugh stressed. These task forces, made up of Senate members and administrators, will be working in a short timeframe, from 90 to 120 days.

To increase non-state revenue, there are a number of options being considered, Waugh said. Departments could offer more courses during summer sessions, set up self-supporting degree programs and work with UCLA Extension on ways to deliver basic skills courses. UCLA will gradually increase its enrollment of higher-paying non-resident students, but by a modest number so as not to harm access for California students. And UC is looking into whether different fees should be charged for particular schools or subjects where the cost of educating students is higher.”

From the initial budget task force charge: “
2) UCLA needs to consider alternative ways of providing instruction, especially in the areas of language, writing and math. Increased use of summer sessions,
partnerships with community colleges and extension, and new teaching technologies including online methods must be explored in order to lower the costs of delivering basic and remedial skills.”

Bob’s commentary: In efforts to save money, the budget task force will be recommending major changes to the undergraduate curriculum. Unfortunately, our program has no representation on the task force working to restructure us, and far as I know, no one from our program has even been informed that this task force exists (Bruce can correct me on this point).

One positive note is that they still want to move people through the system, and we do help this process, so they could use our relatively cheap production of student units. Also, a lot of these plans are contingent on senate faculty teaching more, and this may be hard to enact for an extended period of time.

On a more negative side, the idea of switching classes to summer and extension could really hurt us and cost students a lot of extra money. Moreover, the idea that using technology can make large classes seem small has been proven to be expensive and not necessarily effective.


  1. Just a thought, but do recall what happened to Berkeley ESL program. Bear in mind that once a program is move to Extension, it becomes more vulnerable and easier to axe

  2. Are there any universities that do not have writing requirements? Or any requirements at all??

    "Ladder faculty teaching high-priority courses"... this seems like it would make it more difficult to recruit faculty, which might make it necessary to pay them even more (or make it necessary to buy a lot of infrastructure and people-time to support those courses). When ladder faculty teach big courses, they need a lot of support (because they have to do research, too, and they don't have time to work with a dozen--let alone 300--students!). How much do those courses really cost? I assume that there are many hidden costs to large courses taught by highly-paid faculty.

    Departments and colleges pay close attention to their evaluators' comments, in order to do better on their next review. But then they slide away from the true spirit or goals of those program changes and "go through the motions." This is happening in a dept. I teach in, one that is trying to cut costs and thus very much water down a newish required course that met the recommendations of their accreditors. Perhaps it is natural. But what happens when a university is being evaluated at the very moment that the true goals of higher education are being erased by streamlining? Mustn't that move be apparent to the evaluators? Or is is considered innovative?? (Although the UCLA administator in charge of "educational innovations" is no longer on the payroll in that role.)

    Are ladder faculty unable to protect themselves from the kinds of changes that will be expected of them?

    Is there a motto or list somewhere of the stated goals and priorities of UC?


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