Maverick milestone: UTA achieves prestigious Texas Tier One designation

Tier One status signifies UTA’s consistent excellence in academics, research

Thursday, Aug 19, 2021 • Jeff Carlton : Contact

The tower at The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington has become just the fourth institution in the state to achieve designation as a Texas Tier One university, a significant milestone of excellence in academics and research that brings with it access to the state’s National Research University Fund (NRUF).

The first university to achieve Texas Tier One designation in more than three years, UTA reached or exceeded rigorous benchmarks of quality established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for at least two consecutive years. Those benchmarks include:

  • surpassing $45 million in restricted research expenditures;
  • awarding more than 200 Ph.D.s each year, which UTA has done for six years in a row;
  • being designated a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society;
  • enrolling a freshman class of high academic achievement, a criterion for which UTA consistently ranks the highest among universities in the running for NRUF designation; and
  • having high-quality faculty, as illustrated by the increase in National Academy members, who are considered the foremost authorities on impactful research in the U.S. and who achieve membership only through significant contributions that advance their fields of study.

“Congratulations to The University of Texas at Arlington for being designated as a Texas Tier One university,” said Governor Greg Abbott. “UTA joins the ranks of other Texas universities recognized by NRUF for their commitment to excellence in research and academics, and this achievement will open the door for additional research funding for the university. This designation will further bolster our state’s dedication to higher education, economic development, and cutting-edge research, and I congratulate the students, professors, and faculty of UTA for achieving this prestigious milestone.”

“As an incubator for innovation and a champion of student access, UT Arlington already is a national model for urban institutions,” UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “The NRUF designation and its exclusive research support will provide more momentum to UT Arlington as it continues its ascent to even greater prominence. The culture of research excellence continues to flourish at UT Arlington, and this achievement reflects the campus’ exceptional—and resilient—leaders, researchers and educators.”

Texas lawmakers established the NRUF in 2009 to provide a pathway for emerging research institutions to become national leaders in research output. Texas Tier One status not only signifies that UT Arlington is a leading research university, but also provides additional resources to ensure the University continues to recruit top faculty, pursue groundbreaking research and prepare students to enter one of the strongest workforces in the country.

“This is a game changer for UTA that has been nearly 12 years in the making. Texas Tier One designation is a public invitation to take a fresh look at UTA’s academic and research excellence and the impact this special University is making on the region, the state of Texas and beyond,” said Teik C. Lim, interim president of The University of Texas at Arlington. “This designation is earned through demonstrated commitment to academic and research excellence, and it means that UTA is categorized in Texas as among a small grouping of the state’s highest-quality research universities.”

UTA’s total research expenditures were approximately $125 million in 2020, with restricted and federal research expenditures of $52 million. The University’s ever-growing research portfolio attracts high-achieving students and faculty from across Texas and around the globe, all coming to Arlington to learn, teach, innovate and advance fields of knowledge across subjects as diverse as health care and hypersonics. Faculty and students engage in research on health disparities, gerontology, critical Texas infrastructure for transportation and natural disaster planning, advanced aviation technology, composite materials and much more.

UTA, which has 19 fellows in the National Academy of Inventors, more than any other Texas institution, is among an elite group of 131 institutions designated as R-1: Doctoral Universities—Very High Research Activity, the highest designation, by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education and is ranked as the third fastest-growing doctoral public institution in the country, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Almanac (2020).

UTA’s Tier One status also underlines its leadership role in the region. With the DFW metroplex facing growing pressures as a result of substantial population growth, UTA and many of its nearly 240,000 alumni are helping the DFW region and state of Texas take full advantage of the opportunities and challenges this creates. The University is graduating thousands of highly skilled Mavericks each year who are ready to fill open jobs and make immediate impacts within their professions. The University is also partnering with community and corporate leaders to address critical issues and provide solutions in health care, infrastructure, planning, engineering, business, sustainability, arts and music, among others.

When Mavericks graduate, they gain access to jobs at 22 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the North Texas region—the fourth most in the U.S.—and earn the highest first-year salaries of graduates from non-medical UT System institutions, according to the University of Texas System Smartbook 2020.

At the same time, UTA is a champion for access and a beacon for thousands of Texans working to transform their lives through the power of higher education. In fall 2020, the University enrolled the largest and one of the most academically talented freshman classes in UTA history. It is recognized nationally by U.S. News and World Report both as a leading destination for transfer students (fifth-most transfer students nationally) and as having the fifth-highest undergraduate diversity index in the nation.

Looking back at the University’s established goal of achieving Texas Tier One, Lim said, “It truly takes a team working together for such a significant, long-range goal to become reality. I want to express my personal appreciation to UTA’s world-class faculty, researchers and staff, talented students, and dedicated alumni and supporters on achieving this historic milestone, which was achieved through their unwavering commitment and many years of hard work. I also want to acknowledge and thank former UTA presidents Jim Spaniolo and Vistasp Karbhari for their steadfast vision and leadership in setting UTA on the path to achieve this historic milestone for the University and attaining this esteemed level of academic and research excellence.”

“The Tier One designation and additional research funding through NRUF not only ensure the University will continue to thrive, but also reflect the high caliber of faculty and students who already are working and studying here,” said Marion J. Ball, the Raj and Indra Nooyi Endowed Distinguished Chair in Bioengineering, presidential distinguished professor, executive director of UTA’s Multi-Interprofessional Center for Health Informatics, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine. “The University is a catalyst for research with a global impact and will continue to attract scientists and students at the top of their fields.”

UTA has provided support to the growing student population and research infrastructure. For example, its state-of-the-art, $125 million Science & Engineering Innovation & Research building opened in 2018, ushering in a new era of life and health science discovery focused on interdisciplinary research around major health science challenges such as brain health, cancer, cardiovascular health, healthy aging and rehabilitative medicine. UTA has also constructed new residence halls and a faculty and staff support building and remodeled its University Center. A new $76 million building for the School of Social Work and the College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Smart Hospital, set for completion in late 2022, will create a new home to teach and train the next generation of social workers and health care professionals.

Just three other universities have achieved Tier One status and become eligible for research funding through the NRUF: Texas Tech, University of Houston and University of Texas at Dallas.


About The University of Texas at Arlington

With a global enrollment of approximately 60,000 students, The University of Texas at Arlington is the fourth-largest institution in Texas. It is one of 131 universities nationwide to receive the R-1: Doctoral Universities—Very High Research Activity designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for the top doctoral research universities in the United States. In 2021, UTA received the Texas Tier One designation reserved for the state’s top institutions for academic and research excellence. The University ranks No. 1 nationally in the Military Times’ annual “Best for Vets: Colleges” list, is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, and has approximately 240,000 alumni making an impact across Texas and beyond.