West Chester University Earns R2 Reclassification Status by The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education
Unintended Good Outcome is Due to the High Quality of WCU Teaching Faculty
West Chester University’s reclassification from Master's Colleges & Universities – Larger Programs (M1) to Doctoral Universities – High Research Activity (R2) was released in the most recent update of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which was posted for a public-review period in December of 2021. The University’s new 2021 classification took place during Carnegie’s most recent three-year cycle of evaluation; Carnegie’s last update occurred in 2018. According to the classification, R2 universities have “high research activity” in academic settings where teaching is the priority. In an R2 university, most courses are taught by professors who are involved in research activities and often include students in their research work.
“As an institution that focuses on quality teaching first and foremost, we are delighted to earn this new status,” said West Chester University President Chris Fiorentino. “Achieving R2 status, however, was never a strategic goal of this University. As we work toward our goals of ensuring student success at every level, we find ourselves with this new status. We continue to be focused on our undergraduate and graduate students’ needs, and we are not striving to change who we are.”
To be considered an R2 university, a university or college must have awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees and must have had at least $5 million in total research expenditures as reported through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Higher Education Research & Development Survey (HERD). As such, West Chester University’s reclassification to an R2 university is based on research and development expenditures, and the number of doctoral students it graduates.
“The hallmark of our faculty is their emphasis on the teacher-scholar model,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Laurie Bernotsky. “Research performed by our faculty enhances their teaching to students as well as their own teaching excellence. The addition of our doctoral programs, which have been added within the last decade, is all due to our faculty. Our R2 distinction is an unintended good outcome and comes without tinkering with our mission.”
A steady increase in graduate student enrollment between fiscal years 2010-2020 has been enhanced by the University’s addition of doctoral programs in the fields of clinical psychology (Psy.D.), education policy planning and administration (Ed.D.), nursing practice (D.N.P.), and public administration (D.P.A.).
“In FY 2020, the update year, WCU graduated 24 Ed.D. and D.P.A. students combined and invested $6.41 million in research and development as defined by the HERD survey,” said Vice Provost for Research and Creative Activity/Vice Provost for Faculty Development Niki Bennett. “It is important to note that the University investment in research has been greater than $5 million since FY 2015, so the new Carnegie Classification is really a reflection of the fact that our professional practice doctoral programs are beginning to graduate students in higher numbers.
It is equally important to note that the majority of the University’s external funding continues to be for programs that support undergraduate student services and training – a reflection of the commitment of University faculty, staff, and administrators to improving student success.”
The transition is significant in that it presents an opportunity for the University to attract even more talented new faculty, staff, and students, especially graduate students, to its campus. The University’s reclassification will also be another critical factor used by the U.S. Department of Education as well as U.S. News and World Report for rankings and grant eligibility.
“It is important to underscore that even with these exciting changes, one thing will never change: the centrality of teaching to the mission of our University,” said Deputy Provost and Vice President for Academic Operations Jeffery Osgood. “Faculty scholarship and program growth have the support of this entire educational community. We are especially proud of the hard work of our faculty in producing research, engaging students in that research, creating new critical-need graduate programs, and being committed to students in intentional ways that allow them to cross the finish line to receive their degrees.”
With the support of the University’s Faculty Senate and the Provost’s Office, a taskforce was formed last spring to capture a variety of perspectives across the University regarding Carnegie’s automatic research reclassification process. Such discussions are part of an ongoing process and the University continues to remain engaged with internal constituencies in a continuous dialogue regarding the reclassification.
In a joint email from Fiorentino, Bernotsky and Osgood that formally announced the updated distinction, it was stated, “From our humble beginnings in 1871, West Chester University has transformed itself greatly over the course of many years. Today, as we celebrate West Chester University’s sesquicentennial, the differences between then and now are indeed quite palpable as we look at our campus, our students, our curriculum, and even our world. What has not changed, however, is this institution’s commitment to student success, and the lengths to which faculty and staff dedicate their lives to cultivating students to be the best versions of themselves as educated people who are compassionate citizens.”