University of Alaska releases details of proposed restructuring plan

A draft plan outlining how the University of Alaska system might restructure itself in light of reduced state funding was released Tuesday.

The proposed "Strategic Pathways" plan was introduced ahead of the UA Board of Regents meeting set for Thursday and Friday. UA President Jim Johnsen first announced the plan in January.

The proposal offers the most details so far on what Johnsen hopes to accomplish. The plan, only in working draft form, aims to streamline the three universities by focusing on "core strengths" of each institution.

The draft includes several potential goals, measures and an outline for which universities might take the lead in different areas of research and teaching.

The plan includes a conceptual framework that lists the University of Alaska Fairbanks as the "research university" focused on science and engineering, the University of Alaska Anchorage as the "metropolitan university" with a research emphasis on social and policy sciences and the University of Alaska Southeast as a "liberal arts/science university" geared toward interdisciplinary environmental research.

In terms of what the campuses would teach, all three would include programs for education and management students, and UAA and UAF would both have an engineering focus. UAA would also have a focus on health professions and social sciences. UAF's focus would include sciences and rural development. UAS would include mining and marine trades, marine biology and fisheries at the undergraduate level and interdisciplinary degrees.

While the plan focuses on academic programs, in a letter set to faculty and staff Tuesday, Johnsen wrote administrators within the statewide office are working together to "to streamline processes and improve services all while reducing costs." It notes there will be "substantive" administrative changes in the coming months and years.


According to the letter, the last of three phases of the plan would be implemented no later than 2019. Much of the next year would be dedicated to evaluating options and providing opportunities for public comment. In the proposed timeline, the regents will begin approving program changes in early 2017.

Roberta Graham, associate vice president of public affairs and federal relations, said in an email Johnsen was unavailable for additional comment Wednesday. Graham said he plans to present the plan to regents Friday afternoon.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.