Oregon universities pivot to meet the future

August 11, 2014 / Phil Lesch

The Oregonian
August 11th, 2014

Until the Oregon State Board of Higher Education slipped quietly out of existence this summer, Matt Donegan spent five years on it, the last three as chairman. But talking about higher education and economic development recently, the first institution he mentioned was the University of Washington.

When he listens to other Oregon businessmen talk about higher ed, he "can hear a lot of envy of what UW has been able to accomplish."

Seeing how that's happened, of course, doesn't take five years close study of the Oregon system. "It doesn't seem that Oregon was looking ahead the way Washington was looking ahead," says Donegan. While Washington invested in its research universities "In Oregon, we did not place those bets."

Oregon being Oregon, its response to higher ed disinvestment was to restructure, and soon each of the state's seven universities will have its own institutional board, under the new Higher Education Coordinating Commission. With the sudden departure of University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson, the new system is in line for its first workout, as the first job cited for the new boards is to hire (and fire) their presidents. In academic terms, Gottfredson's departure is pretty abrupt, and comes quite soon after the new board acquired the official power to decide who was president.

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