With a boost in funding from the Legislature, the University of Florida on Friday announced an initiative to add 500 new faculty members to help raise its status as one of the nation’s top public research universities.
“We know what we need to do and we are laser-focused on several areas that will have the greatest impact on our educational and research missions while giving UF an edge to compete successfully with the nation’s other top institutions for talented faculty, students and staff,” university President Kent Fuchs said.
Fuchs said the university ranks among the top 10 public research universities and “we have our eye on being among the top five.”
UF led the 12 Florida state universities with $791 million in research expenditures during the 2015-16 academic year, according to the state university system’s Board of Governors.
Joe Glover, provost for the university, said the 500 new faculty members, who will be hired over a period of time, will be in addition to the 300 to 400 faculty members the school hires each year to replace staff who retire or leave.
It comes on top of 115 new faculty the school has hired over the last three years using money it receives from the state for being designated one of two “pre-eminent” universities in Florida, along with Florida State University, Glover said.
Money for the initiative will come from a combination of state funding, university fund-raising efforts and other university resources, school officials said.
State funding for UF and the other members of state university system was substantially increased in a new $82 billion state budget that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last week.
UF will receive $27 million from two new programs, initiated by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, that are designed to help universities hire “world-class” faculty and to reward schools with top-level medical, law and business schools.
UF will also benefit from increases in pre-eminent funding and in performance funding included in the new budget.
In addition to strengthening research initiatives, UF officials said the additional faculty will help reduce class sizes, which is an important performance measure among top universities.
UF, which now has a student-to-faculty ratio of 20-1, will have a ratio of 16-1 when the hiring is completed, school officials said.
UF officials said they are aiming to bring the class sizes in line with other top public research universities like the University of Michigan, which has a 15-1 student-to-faculty ratio. UF and Michigan are members of the Association of American Universities, which is a group of the top research institutions in the country.
UF is not the only Florida school looking to increase its faculty and research efforts. The University of South Florida, which is second in the state system with $515 million in research expenditures, has launched an initiative to hire 300 new faculty members over the next five years, with the goals of getting designated as a state pre-eminent institution and becoming a top national research school.