UK College of Engineering makes its case for explosive growth
The University of Kentucky recently announced ambitious growth plans for the next five years, with more students, more faculty, and more space for classrooms, offices and research.
But nowhere will that growth be more apparent than the College of Engineering. According to Dean Rudolph G. Buchheit, who started this summer, the college is recruiting 20 new faculty to keep up with a 90 percent increase in student enrollment over the past decade.
Buchheit’s goal is to expand the school’s current 3,900-student enrollment to 6,000 by 2025. That also means doubling its 500 graduate students to almost 1,000. In order to teach all those students, UK will need to hire approximately 70 new faculty over the next five years, he said.
“Across the country, there’s a surge in engineering enrollment, it’s very much in response to market forces and economic development policies in states,” including Kentucky, Buchheit said. “It wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t a demand.”
That kind of growth will also take more space. UK already moved its School of Journalism and Media out of Grehan Hall, which is being renovated as an addition to the Engineering Complex at the heart of campus. But that adds just 22,000 square feet to the current 275,000. They’ll need 125,000 more, Buchheit said.
Further down the road, they’re planning a new building between engineering and the Gatton College of Business and Economics. It’s still largely conceptual, but officials hope to get legislative approval to begin the process in the 2020-2022 state budget.
The plan ties into Gov. Matt Bevin’s vision of Kentucky as an engineering and manufacturing hub.
The planned growth also helps UK with a new state funding model that translates more science and technology graduates into more dollars for operations.
“It’s an attraction for industry to seek to be part of this pipeline,” Buchheit said. “We’re enhancing the quality of engineering, which can enhance the quality of UK and what it can do for Kentucky.”
Derrick Ramsey, secretary of the Education and Workforce Cabinet and a UK trustee, said he likes the growth he is seeing in science and technology degrees, particularly in engineering.
“These moves help us lure businesses here,” he said. “These things help us if we’re going to compete in a global marketplace.”
While faculty trustee Robert Grossman understands the need for growth, he also calls for some caution.
“One question that has always been a concern . . . is making sure that we can hire enough research active faculty so we maintain the appropriate balance of our three missions: teaching, research and service,” he said. “We don’t want to grow so quickly that the instruction mission overwhelms the research mission. There has to be an investment in faculty very quickly to handle the immediate increase before the revenue generation from new students starts to kick in.”