Indiana University and Purdue University took the first steps Friday (Aug. 12) on a bold new vision for higher education in Indianapolis, designed to increase the number of job-ready graduates in an innovation-led economy, fuel economic growth in the region and the state, and enhance service to the Indianapolis community and beyond.
This new vision, outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding approved Friday by the IU Board of Trustees and the executive committee of Purdue’s Board of Trustees, will transform the 52-year-old IUPUI – a joint venture between the two universities on a campus IU owns and manages – into separate academic organizations in which IU and Purdue will each govern their own programs. It calls for a more energized role for each university and the production of more graduates ready to participate in the modern economy.
The MOU outlines a platform for collaboration in which each university’s strengths will expand research activity in Indianapolis and enhance funding opportunities for joint research initiatives, including the creation of a joint biosciences engineering institute. This new institute will harness the power of the universities’ collective academic and research strengths and ongoing collaboration between Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and other Purdue health-related disciplines, and Indiana University’s School of Medicine and health-related disciplines to develop new life-enhancing therapies and technologies while simultaneously creating a highly sought-after pool of professionals whose unique research and training will create startups and attract new companies to Indiana.
The presidents of both universities pointed to the joint institute as an example of how this agreement brings them together in ways that will create transformational change in Indianapolis and the state, creating a global center of research and an engine of growth.
The MOU charges campus leaders to work together over the next year toward the optimum model for strengthening the city and state in the modern economy. To create that model, various operational details will be worked out through careful planning and consultation with all impacted groups. Working groups will be formed to address a variety of specific areas, and both universities are committed to executing a smooth transition that puts students first. Completion of the realignment is expected in time for the fall 2024 semester, at which time the new academic organizations will become official.
Both presidents hail decision
Presidents Mitch Daniels of Purdue and Pam Whitten of IU hailed the trustees’ support and action for the positive effects they foresee.
“This is an historic moment for Indianapolis, for IU, and for our entire state,” Whitten said. “We are building on IUPUI’s more than 50 years of accomplishment to propel us into becoming one of the preeminent urban research universities in this country. In addition to expanding our science and technology programs, we plan to grow across the board, create more opportunities for students, and become even more deeply integrated with the Indianapolis community through close relationships with local businesses, nonprofits, sports organizations, and more.”
Said Purdue’s Daniels: “This new vision will enable the number of Purdue’s STEM graduates to grow and also provide more opportunities to our students and faculty both in Indianapolis and in West Lafayette. What we are announcing today responds to calls we have heard from Indianapolis and across the state for a bigger and more visible Purdue in Indianapolis. Our state and its largest city require a world-class, high-technology research presence of the quality Purdue represents.”
Each university building on its strengths
Indiana University owns and operates the IUPUI campus, but certain programs grant Purdue degrees. Under the MOU, various activities will be allocated as follows:
Indiana University will take over operation of what is now the School of Science at IUPUI, except for its Department of Computer Science, which will become part of Purdue. IU will accelerate training for tomorrow’s IT workforce by expanding its Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering with new computer science programs in Indianapolis.
IU also expects to enhance integration of its science programs with its School of Medicine and other allied health science schools, expanding the number of students who will be prepared for health science-based careers, improving the pipeline of doctors and nurses and keeping more graduates in the state. IU will also establish innovative collaborations in new research areas, which will benefit the state through increased funding and resulting startups.
In addition, IU will have responsibility for providing certain administrative services for both academic organizations and for maintaining the intercollegiate athletic program. IU will continue to provide innovative educational experiences for the more than 27,000 students in other IU programs such as business, law, nursing, social work and a wide range of other academic disciplines.
Purdue will assume responsibility for engineering, computer science and technology as a fully integrated expansion of Purdue West Lafayette. The new structure will allow Purdue to grow engineering, technology and computer science enrollments in Indianapolis, and create exciting opportunities for current West Lafayette students to “study away” in Indianapolis while pursuing internship or cooperative work opportunities with Indianapolis companies.
In addition to its new urban campus, Purdue intends to open a branch of its Purdue Applied Research Institute on or near the current IUPUI. Overall, Purdue anticipates growing today’s Indianapolis enrollment by more than 1,000 students, housing many together in a new residential building near their academic buildings, Daniels said. These may be seniors finishing their education on the new urban campus, students who opt to undertake their entire Purdue experience at Indianapolis or options in between.
New programs to support growth, opportunity
In Friday’s announcement, both presidents emphasized IUPUI’s 52-year record of accomplishment. During that time, it has evolved from a local commuter school to the third-largest undergraduate campus and one of the biggest research campuses in Indiana. Its 206,000 living alumni contribute mightily to the state’s economic growth.
But the opportunities and challenges of that growth and the changing demands of a modern economy demand a new approach, they said. Central Indiana and business community leaders have expressed concern about shortages of talent, especially in the sciences, engineering, technology, and health care, as well as a need for high-end research. Companies have even reported that they’ve had to invest elsewhere as the result of a lack of trained local talent.
“This new arrangement will give us opportunities to create immersive new programs in innovation and entrepreneurship that strengthen Indianapolis’ position as one of our country’s great urban centers,” Whitten said. “And, in recognition of the importance of research as an engine of economic growth, I am today announcing a goal of raising our School of Medicine’s ranking in NIH funding for research in medicine and biosciences among public universities from 14th, where we stand today, into the top 10 within five years.”
Daniels and Whitten will welcome reactions and suggestions to these plans and hope for active support from business, public sector, and philanthropic leaders in bringing them to reality.
Both leaders also emphasized that, amid the change, key elements of what has made IUPUI successful would remain:
- Proximity to world-class employers.
- Proximity to state government, within walking distance of campus.
- Engagement with the community, extending even to faculty, a cutting-edge attribute only now being emulated by others.
- The collaborative spirit on campus, which will be maintained under the new structure.
- Pride in what has been accomplished over 52 years, gratitude to the faculty and staff who made it possible, and a loyal alumni base.
- A commitment to continuing executive and mid-career education.
What will ultimately emerge from that transition will be a much stronger platform for two world-class higher education powerhouses to meet the needs of Indiana and its capital city for decades to come. An FAQ is available online.