UTD must aim high, yet forge unique identity



For several years, administrators, student leaders and others have made sure that UTD’s excellence is known by dubbing it the “MIT of the South.”

In fact quite a few universities have adopted this colloquialism, including the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Alabama in Huntsville — I guess there’s a nice ring to it.

But the truth is UTD is at a very different stage of development than the best universities out there.

The university recently released a news statement announcing that UTD was ranked 15th on the Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 list. This study measured teaching, international outlook, industry income, research and citations to determine the best universities in the world less than 50 years old. Up from 29th and with a 92.8 percent increase in citations, or research influence, since 2012, UTD seems to be achieving some substantial accomplishments. The only universities from the U.S. that ranked higher than UTD were University of California, or UC, Irvine at 5th and UC Santa Cruz at 11th.

But there is one important factor about this particular ranking — age. There is a plethora of universities that were founded before 1963 that are excluded from this list, including the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT. While MIT always ranks high on the national “Best Of”s lists, UTD is nowhere to be found. When taking a closer look at these rankings, it’s easy to see that age does matter.

Out of the 100 best universities in the nation, according to the U.S. News & World Report, only 15 were founded in the 20th century and only two were founded in the last 50 years. These two are none other than the two UC universities mentioned in the Times rankings. Five other UC campuses made the top 100 rankings, with UC Berkeley as the highest-ranked public school at 21st. The UC System makes up 66 percent of the public institutions established in the 1900s represented on the national list.

UC clearly is doing something right and serves as a prime example of just how powerful a united system can be for relatively young, public schools. There’s little doubt that much of our university’s success can be attributed to the strength of the UT System and UT schools that came before us (UT Austin, founded in 1883, ranked 46 on the national list).

So will UTD ever truly be an “MIT,” a private university ranked 6th in the nation and founded more than 150 years ago? Maybe not. But could we become comparable to UC, a 10-school system that dominates the pool of young public universities in teaching and research? Yes.

Instead of using a catchy, overused phrase, let’s look to those universities that we can truly relate to and learn from, so that one day calling ourselves simply “UTD” will be all the credibility we need.



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