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What the New R2 Status Means to the University

Research in the UNF labLast month, UNF gained admittance to an elite group of universities across the country — those classified as Research Universities with an R1 or R2 designation. After reviewing 3,900 universities, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education included only a prestigious few on its 2022 list, designating 137 as R1 and 133, including UNF, as R2. Since the announcement was made, we’ve had a chance to talk with John Kantner, associate provost of faculty and research and interim dean of the Graduate School, to learn more about our new R2 designation.
What does the Carnegie Classification system consider?
This is not a ranking that considers graduation rates, campus facilities or other student-focused metrics. The Carnegie Classification system is simply a way to sort universities into buckets or categories by the types of degrees awarded with an emphasis on research.
How is the R2 classification determined, and how has UNF’s level changed over the years?
Our current classification is based on the “data year” of 2019-20, so there’s a bit of a lag. Carnegie issues its classifications every three years.
In 2016, the Carnegie Classification had a master’s level 3, 2 and 1. UNF was an M1, which consists of institutions that have large master’s degree programs. There were also three doctoral levels: R1, R2 and R3. At that time, R3 required a certain number of research doctorates awarded each year (with original research and a dissertation) and a certain threshold of research expenditures.
In 2019, Carnegie reworked its classification system and changed what had been R3 to a Doctoral/Professional Universities or D/PU. This new category required at least 30 professional doctorates awarded in the data year. For example, our doctorates for nurse practitioners and physical therapists (well over 100 awarded each year) are considered professional doctorates that focus on clinical practice as opposed to original research, such as doctorates for the College of Education and Human Services. Because Carnegie changed the rules to acknowledge these professional doctorates, UNF made a significant move into the doctoral category as a D/PU, which made us a national university in U.S. News & World Report; you cannot be listed as a national university in any of the rankings until you are at least an R3, or what is now a D/PU.
How did we move from the third tier of doctoral universities to the second tier?
To get to the R2 level, a university must have at least $5 million of R&D expenditures, which can be a combination of external and internal funding sources. Recently UNF has increased research expenditures to about $14 million, so we’re well above that required level. There also must be at least 20 research doctoral graduates in the data year.
Carnegie moves universities that meet those thresholds into an R category. To further segregate the list into R1 and R2, Carnegie uses a statistical analysis based on additional criteria: the type of research doctorates, the amount of R&D expenditures, and the number of research staff, which would include research faculty, postdoctoral researchers, research associates, research scientists and other titles. For 2022, the analysis placed UNF in the R2 category.
Now that UNF has been designated as an R2, why is this important?
The R2 designation gives us a standing in the research community. In addition, some of the other true ranking systems, such as U.S. News & World Report, in their own systems, reference where the universities fall in the Carnegie Classification.
What’s meaningful about it to me is that Jacksonville was one of the only major metropolitan areas that did not have a research university. There have been studies that have shown that the economic success and diversification and vibrancy of a particular metropolitan area is closely correlated with the kind and size of a research university that is serving the area. The city’s workforce needs are not just at the undergraduate and master’s degree levels, so UNF graduating students at the doctoral level helps businesses in Jacksonville, and attracts those that are interested in moving to the area. It also helps with applications for research funding to organizations such as the National Science Foundation, which pays attention to these classifications.
What’s next?
We’re now having some conversations about what type of R2 university we want to be. Do we need to bring in more doctoral programs? Do we perhaps focus on professional doctorates that do dissertations? So, that’s where we are now, trying to think about what this looks like for UNF moving forward.