USM Board of Regents Endorses Creation of University of Maryland Strategic Alliance

On December 9, 2011, the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents endorsed the concept of creating the University of Maryland Strategic Alliance, an innovative and structured collaboration between the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). The alliance will leverage the resources of the two universities to help position USM to serve students and the State of Maryland better.

The board action resulted from a comprehensive and inclusive six-month study of the advantages and disadvantages of merging the two USM universities in response to a Maryland General Assembly Joint Chairmen's request. The study involved work groups comprising faculty, staff, and students from UMCP and UMB and from all USM institutions. The board also solicited input from higher education merger experts, elected officials, business and community leaders, and other interested individuals.

Also, the board charged USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan, UMCP President Wallace Loh, and UMB President Jay Perman to develop a detailed plan for creating the alliance. They will submit the plan to the board by March 1, 2012.

In assessing the advantages and disadvantages of a UMB-UMCP merger, the board concluded that the disadvantages of a merger outweighed the advantages. Board members also concluded that the strategic alliance would capitalize on the advantages while minimizing the risks associated with a merger.

"I would like to express my appreciation to the board, the faculty, staff and student committees and to the legions of concerned and involved citizens, throughout our state, for their focused efforts during the merger-study process," Kirwan said. "It is gratifying that there is so much support for UMCP, UMB, and the entire mission of the USM all across Maryland.

"This process revealed that there is no doubt Marylanders recognize the critical role USM institutions play in our state -- educationally, economically, socially, and in terms of our quality of life.   From my perspective, that alone made the study a worthwhile endeavor."

As envisioned by the board, the alliance will leverage the combined resources of each institution, enabling USM to:

  • better prepare students to fill the region's workforce needs through joint academic programs.
  • attract more research funding to the state.
  • create more opportunities for innovation, technology transfer, and commercialization.
  • develop capacity to implement joint appointments between the two campuses efficiently.
  • create more opportunities to compete even more successfully for star faculty and researchers.

The board views the alliance as a giant step toward paving the way for more collaboration among all institutions within USM. While its primary focus will be to strengthen the collaboration between UMCP and UMB, it will serve as a model for furthering collaborations system-wide.

Among the disadvantages identified for a merger were lack of unified, collective agreement; the cultural and operational differences of the two institutions; required funding enhancements; and threats to achieving the goals of the USM strategic plan.

The identified benefits of the alliance were many: committed leadership, significantly fewer challenges regarding campus cultural differences, avoiding some of the costs identified for a merger, its potential to move USM strategic goals forward, and others. Among the goals articulated in Powering Maryland Forward, USM's strategic plan, are advancing the state toward its established goal of having 55 percent of its young adult population hold a college degree and enhancing the state's competitiveness.

Additional information relevant to the UMCP-UMB Merger Study Process: