The University System of Georgia took several steps Wednesday to establish a more comprehensive approach to guiding the state's 31 public colleges and universities.
The Board of Regents voted to implement a new policy determining a wide range of issues, including what types of degrees each institution should offer, how much of an emphasis should be on research and teaching and access and admissions selectivity.
"Given the size of the system and the demands and expectations placed upon it as well as the reality resources are finite, we need to have a structure that clearly defines what institutions do and the types of programs and areas that are appropriate," said Chancellor Hank Huckaby.
The board also established four classifications: research university, comprehensive university, state university and state college.
Research universities — Georgia Tech, Georgia State, University of Georgia and Georgia Regents University — offer a broad array of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. They also offer doctoral degrees and emphasize research.
In contrast, comprehensive universities — Georgia Southern, Kennesaw State, Valdosta State and West Georgia — will also offer undergraduate and graduate programs. While they may have doctoral programs, the emphasis will be on master's degrees.
The moves are expected to reduce duplication of academic programs, an issue that surfaced a few years ago when a proposal was submitted for UGA to offer a few new engineering degrees already offered by Georgia Tech. The request was narrowly approved despite criticism.
University officials said the changes are first major look at institutional missions since the mid-1990s.
Also Wednesday, the board approved a five-year strategic plan emphasizing degree completion, research and innovation. A key element of the plan is the Complete College Georgia initiative, which has a goal of increasing the percentage of Georgians completing college from 42 percent to 60 percent by 2020.