Management agreement now in effect
The management agreement between the University and the Commonwealth under the Higher Education Restructuring Act went into effect July 1. The agreement grants the University the highest level of autonomy from the state allowed by the act and delegates the majority of financial responsibility and accountability measures to the University's Board of Visitors.
The agreement specifically delegated management decisions, including greater authority in the areas of human resources, procurement, capital outlay, finance and accounting and information technology, according to Leonard Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget, explained that when employees are now hired, they are no longer referred to as state classified employees, but as University staff. Currently the University's human resource system closely mirrors that of the state of Virginia's higher-education system, but as time progresses the University will be making changes that do not adhere exactly to the rules and regulations of the state, Sheehy explained.
Two other schools in addition to the University, Virginia Tech and the College of William and Mary, were also granted the highest levels of autonomy allowed under the legislation. These schools were selected, Sandridge said, because of their success with decentralized authority over a number of years in these specific areas.
In 1996, the University Medical Center was granted the a similar degree of autonomy, Sheehy said, and served as a model for the current agreement.
"[This] served as an example of how the state can grant ... autonomy to a state agency to run its operation and resulting in a successful operation," she said.
Sandridge explained that all Virginia universities are granted the first level of autonomy by the state and can apply for the second level, which enables them to create pilot programs in specific areas.
The University will remain under the third level of autonomy for three years and then the management agreement must be renewed, Sheehy said.
The management agreement is accompanied by a set of expectations that the University is anticipated to uphold in the upcoming years. These goals include measures to assure access to the University for students regardless of their economic resources, safety and security precautions, the quality and efficiency of University management, a demonstrated commitment to support K-12 education in the Commonwealth, and a commitment to support economic and research enterprises at the University.
Right now, Virginia is the only state to implement an agreement like this with its public universities, explained Sheehy.
"I think that a lot of states are watching Virginia and watching this model develop to see whether or not it will be successful," she said.