The A&M System Board of Regents is scheduled this week to consider authorizing the merger of the A&M Health Science Center into the flagship College Station university. The Health Science Center currently operates independently from the university, but inside the broader A&M System.
University and system administrators said the change is designed to increase A&M’s stature and allow for easier collaboration between the two entities.
“Such a move would place Texas A&M in a unique collaborative and competitive position to realize the extensive academic and research opportunities made possible through the merging of the two institutions that are currently leading the way in biomedical education and discoveries,” said A&M President R. Bowen Loftin and Health Science Center President Nancy Dickey in a memo to staff Monday.
Without cuts, the move would bring 1,096 new staff and 2,122 students into A&M. Research expenditures would increase at the flagship campus by almost $80 million, and total expenditures would increase by $194 million.
Those new dollars would increase A&M’s rankings in research expenditures from around 20th in the country to 12th or 14th, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said.
“We are already the top research university in the state in terms of dollars,” he said. “We are ahead of every other university. What this does is take us even further.”
But little would change in the administration of the schools, Sharp said. The Health Science Center is made up of six units — schools for dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacology, graduate studies and rural public health. It has offices and classrooms in Bryan-College Station, Dallas, Houston, Temple, McAllen, Corpus Christi, Kingsville and Round Rock. Those schools would still operate separately and in their current locations, officials said.
“The nursing school and all of the schools within the Health Science Center, including the dental school, would be in a box together within the university,” he said. “Each one of those schools would answer to Nancy [Dickey], and then Nancy would answer to the president’s office.”
However, some cuts in redundant staff “would probably happen” in the change, Sharp said.
The merger has been in the works for months. Sharp first confirmed to The Eagle that such a move was being considered in May. Since then, multiple committees have been formed to explore the possibility and guide the school through numerous accreditation processes it would have to pass before the change became final.
Making the change happen will take time — likely at least two or three months. Sharp said he’d like to have it complete by the end of the year. This week’s agenda item, which will be considered Thursday or Friday, would simply give university officials the authority to make it happen.
Faculty members, meanwhile, said they are still processing the idea.
“It has come about really quickly,” said John Quarles, deputy speaker of the Health Science Center Faculty Senate.
Quarles said he and other faculty members have identified several challenges and opportunities that joining the university would create. But it’s hard to gauge the overall opinion of the faculty, he said, because so much is unknown and everyone seems to have different thoughts.
The A&M College of Medicine began as part of Texas A&M. Its first class enrolled in 1977. In 1991, the Board of Regents established the A&M Health Science Center, and it became independent.
“It should have never been moved [out of A&M] to begin with, and in my opinion, we are correcting something, quite frankly,” Sharp said.
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