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Maryland set to join Big Ten academic alliance


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Published on: Wednesday, December 19, 2012

By David Gutman, Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK — Before the University of Maryland joins the Big Ten Conference in 2014, it will join the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, an academic alliance of Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago that pools resources for research, course offerings, library holdings and purchasing power.

While no one is arguing that membership in the CIC was the primary motivation behind Maryland’s conference swap, it played “an essential and significant role,” in the decision, said Brian Ullmann, Maryland’s assistant vice president for communications and marketing.

The CIC, founded in 1958, is widely regarded as one of the best established and most effective academic collaboratives in the country.

“In the Big Ten, all of their academic collaborations are far more entrenched in those universities than in the ACC,” Ullmann said.

The provosts of the CIC institutions met earlier this month to formally accept Maryland’s application to the CIC. The university will officially join the consortium in July.

CIC members engage in $8 billion of research annually, more than twice as much as the Ivy League, according to Barbara McFadden Allen, executive director of the CIC.

Any study abroad program offered by a CIC university is available to students at all CIC universities.

Courses in lesser taught languages — think Pashtun or Ukrainian — are available online to students at all member universities.

“Together our universities teach 120 languages,” Allen said.

The CIC is partnering with Google to create one of the world’s largest digital libraries. They are in the process of digitizing 10 million books, all of which will be instantly available to any student with an Internet connection.

CIC institutions also partner to get lower prices on things like paper, dorm mattresses and travel insurance. Since the purchasing consortium was established in 1998, it has saved more than $19 million, according to the CIC website.

“This is an impressive and formidable company,” Allen said. “We have a significant impact on the regional economy, and we’re proud of that.”

As a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland had already been part of an academic consortium, the ACC International Academic Collaborative. The ACC program, however, is much less robust than is the CIC. It has one part-time employee and an annual budget of $460,000. The CIC has 18 staff members and an annual budget of nearly $2 million.

It may seem counterintuitive to claim that leaving the company of highly esteemed schools like Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia represents an academic step up. But for a large research university like Maryland, that may indeed be the case.

“Our focus is primarily undergraduate,” said David G. Brown, part-time IAC coordinator and provost emeritus at Wake Forest. “Their (the CIC) focus is more primarily graduate and research, as I understand it, and it is certainly more extensive than we do at the ACCIAC.”

Ullmann, the Maryland spokesman, stressed the importance of future research opportunities stemming from the CIC.

“When big grant-making institutions, whether it’s the government or a foundation, when they’re giving out research dollars or grants, almost always those are given to multi-institutional groups,” Ullmann said. “It’s very rare that you get a large grant that just goes to the University of Maryland. Being a part of an $8 billion research enterprise we think will ultimately generate new incremental research funding for the university.”

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