Mizzou cuts 12 graduate programs, announces new interdisciplinary college

COLUMBIA, Mo. • The University of Missouri will cut 12 graduate programs and introduce a new interdisciplinary college in 2019 as part of an overhaul of academic programs announced Wednesday.

The announcement follows nearly a year of work by a 17-person university committee that reviewed graduate programs and recommended investment and collaboration opportunities. The committee recommended cutting twice as many graduate programs as the 12 announced by university Chancellor Alexander Cartwright.

The decision is part of a systemwide review of programs begun last year to address budget and enrollment concerns.

Most of the programs being inactivated will be combined into other degree programs. For example, programs in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources will combine to create a new curriculum in the Division of Applied Social Sciences for students studying agricultural education, rural sociology, science and agricultural journalism, and agricultural and applied economics.

“This includes a host of programs and departments that are merging and the planned development of several new programs,” Cartwright said in a letter addressed to the university community Wednesday. “I want to emphasize that any student who is accepted to or enrolled in programs slated for inactivation will be able to complete their degree.”

The graduate programs being completely cut include the master’s program in religious studies, the master’s and Ph.D. programs in nuclear engineering, and the nuclear safeguards science and technology graduate certificate. All of the School of Medicine’s Ph.D. programs will either be combined into other programs or inactivated, except for biochemistry.

A number of graduate programs remain under review for potential changes, including history, public affairs, sociology, teaching, geological sciences, neuroscience, genetics, food sciences, industrial engineering, American law, personal finance planning, and dispute resolution.

The university task force issued its recommendations in January to cut 27 programs. A university spokesman said at the time enrollment in those programs represented about 6 percent of the 1,887 doctoral students and 2 percent of the 3,250 master’s students.

The College of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies would replace the current Office of Graduate Studies. The college would be home to interdisciplinary academic programs and it would provide administrative support to the university’s traditional graduate programs.

Cartwright and Interim Provost Jim Spain met with deans and the campus community to discuss the task force’s recommendations from January, which led to support for the concept of a college for interdisciplinary and graduate studies. Such courses of study combine multiple disciplines that essentially allow students to design their own specialized majors.

For example, the chemical engineering doctoral program is merging with biological engineering. Leaders and faculty within the French and Italian doctoral programs are working to combine with German and Russian Studies to create a new Department of International Studies.

Professor Chris Riley-Tillman, a faculty fellow in Cartwright’s office focused on institutional effectiveness, said establishing the new college by 2019 is “ambitious” but doable.

“Hopefully we would have pieces of this up and running in the spring, use it in recruiting and admissions, refine it over the summer, and roll it out in full form in the fall,” Riley-Tillman said.

Cartwright also said that campus leaders will work with faculty to develop a routine mechanism for reviewing academic programs on a regular basis. Mizzou’s effort is part of an ongoing, statewide effort to trim degree programs that have lower enrollment.

About 900 certificate, associate, undergraduate and graduate degrees were identified as falling short of state standards for graduates and other measures during a routine audit by the state in 2017.

The other three University of Missouri campuses are also developing reports on strengths and weaknesses of their degree programs as part of an overall review requested by the system president. The St. Louis campus announced program cuts and changes earlier this month.