Report on Reports

12. Reinventing Undergraduate... 1998 - National Commission on Education


Reinventing Undergraduate Education…1998


From administration on down, institutions of higher education must recognize the roles that scholarship and research play in attracting high quality enthusiastic students. I have witnessed the positive effects associated with engaging undergraduates in independent research projects. For example, students develop an authentic passion for scientific discovery and realize that scientific thought truly does not require loads of memorization, but an understanding of major themes. And, yes, we need to make scholarship part of the tenure process at all institutions of higher education…the engagement of students in the process is vital to satisfying inquiring minds and must become integral to a student’s education.

–PKAL F21 Statement, 2002.


The roles and responsibilities of research universities are outlined in one of the most significant reports emerging from and directed toward that sector of the academic community: Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities. Published in 1998, this report is the work of the National Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, whose efforts are continuing through the Reinvention Center at SUNY-Stony Brook. Although the report speaks to research universities, their recommendations will resonate on campuses of all types. Moreover, the arguments and rationale for research universities to proceed from a clear vision of mission and identity are also a reminder that this is the fundamental first step in “…reinvention,” at research universities and beyond.

Their recommendations are built around a concept of integrated education, which is introduced by discussion about the process of change. The report makes a compelling call for the redirecting of resources that will be required, including the redefinition of the teaching load:

…if guided research becomes an important component of undergraduate education, the professor may well conduct research and class simultaneously but in a very different format. The old definitions of workload will have to be replaced. Time-worn assumptions and practices cannot be allowed to prevent needed change in undergraduate education.

One valuable contribution of this report is the brief descriptions of “signs of change,” those programs at research universities that can be adapted by their peers and the larger community as well.