This policy defines the need for and establishes authority for the approval of centers and institutes.
All academic units seeking to develop and/or maintain a center or institute.
UW-Madison is home to more than 250 centers and institutes. The university encourages faculty to collaborate across and within academic units to promote shared teaching and research interests. Departments are the standard unit for organizing teaching, research, and outreach in the university, as described in UW-805 Faculty Policies and Procedures Chapter 5, Departmental Faculties and other faculty legislation. Centers and institutes serve a valuable function in organizing activities for faculty, researchers, and others who wish to work together in teaching and/or research and/or outreach on specialized topics. Some centers and institutes may be of enduring interest and form the basis of a new department while others may exist for a more limited period.
It is an institutional expectation that all active centers and institutes are officially approved. To be formally recognized at UW–Madison, centers and institutes must be: (1) approved by the academic planning council of the sponsoring academic division(s), and (2) approved by the University Academic Planning Council.
The University Academic Planning Council (UAPC) is the governance body empowered to recognize centers and institutes as official units within the university as centers and institutes represent UW-Madison to the external community. The proposal process ensures broad communication of a center or institute’s existence and assures that other centers and institutes will not be established with a substantially overlapping mission or purpose. The approval process also enables the university to better understand the nature and resource demands of academic activity that takes place outside the structure of departments.
Approved centers and institutes appear in a list on a publicly available site. This list of official centers and institutes provides a single point for UW–Madison faculty, staff, and students to learn about the breadth and depth of center or institute activity and consider opportunities to collaborate or coordinate efforts as appropriate. The list is also a reference to verify the formal legitimacy of a center or institute and its connection to UW–Madison.
The approval process ensures that all scholars who may be involved in the work of a center or institute are aware of its existence, may participate as appropriate, and may avoid redundancy of effort among centers and institutes. Since centers and institutes call upon a variety of university resources (space, faculty and staff time and effort, use of the university logo), it is important for both the center or institute and the institution to understand how these resources are used, so they can be used wisely. In most cases, approvals are to be initiated before publicity appears around new centers or institutes; however, with the consent of the school/college dean, groups may use the terms “center” and “institute” provisionally for the purposes of seeking external funding. Once funding is obtained, the group must seek and secure formal approval for the center within 12 months.
Academic departments are the fundamental academic unit of the university and are charged with delivering the teaching, research, and public service missions of the university. Tenure-track faculty positions reside in academic departments, and every faculty member has a primary departmental tenure home. Departments are intended to be long-lived units that provide stability to the academic life of the university. The authority and governance structure of departments are specified and share uniform features across the campus.
The university seeks to facilitate the creation of new research initiatives that extend beyond departmental or traditional disciplinary boundaries. This is done through the creation of interdisciplinary units, commonly identified as centers, institutes, programs, laboratories, or other such terms. Centers and institutes are recognized units within the university that encourage the formation of faculty groups around the scholarly interests and expertise that are not accommodated by the department structure. Centers and institutes exhibit a wide range of appointment and governance structures. As a result of their focused missions, centers and institutes often have a finite lifetime as the defining scholarly questions are resolved or evolve into new disciplines.
Unlike departments and department-like units, centers and institutes are not authorized to offer academic programs or administer subject listings. Centers and institutes may evolve over time into a department-like unit. Department-like units are governed by UW-805 Faculty Policies and Procedures Chapter 5, Departmental Faculties and must follow the rules that apply to departments. The provost and the University Committee are authorized to resolve questions concerning the interpretation of Faculty Policies and Procedures in relation to structures that have both center or institute-like and department-like characteristics.
Proposals to establish, change or discontinue a center or institute must be submitted via Lumen Structures. Detailed information regarding the requirements for proposals is available at the Procedures for Establishing, Changing or Discontinuing Centers.
The approval process for a new center or institute involves peer review to assure that the center or institute meets a defined academic need unmet by other structures, that faculty with an interest in the center or institute activity have an opportunity to comment, and that the resource needs of and resource contributions to the center or institute from various campus units are evaluated and vetted by appropriate governance bodies.
The responsible school/college Academic Planning Council (APC), the dean, and the UAPC must approve changes to existing centers.
Center or institute names must not overlap with those of existing academic divisions, departments, schools, colleges, centers, institutes, or other units. Appropriate endorsements are to accompany the request. Proposals to rename centers and institutes will be considered by the UAPC, typically as part of an automatic consent agenda.
Reorganizations may include combining two or more centers or institutes into one, creating umbrella structures, splitting a center or institute into two or more separate centers or institutes, or other significant restructuring. Appropriate endorsements are to accompany the request. Reorganization requests will be considered by the UAPC, typically as part of an automatic consent agenda. However, if restructuring appears to result in the creation of a new center or institute, then it must be approved by the UAPC.
When faculty support for a center or institute no longer exists, if there is no interest among the faculty in participating in or leading the center or institute, or when a center or institute is no longer financially viable, the center or institute is to be formally discontinued. If, at the time of the five-year review, the dean cannot verify that a center or institute is viable, the dean may recommend discontinuation to the school/college APC. Approved requests will be forwarded to the provost for approval by the UAPC, typically as part of an automatic consent agenda.
Centers and institutes must undergo periodic evaluation. These processes are to be informed by good practice for similar units and involve annual tracking of information related to mission-focused activities (e.g., events hosted, number of participants served in outreach efforts, grants administered). A brief (one page) report must be submitted annually to the appropriate dean(s), and to other units involved in the center or institute’s activities (e.g., to the department homes of participating faculty). If the center or institute was established in a structure other than under a single dean or lead dean, then the evaluation process must follow the process described in the originating proposal.
Every five years, the provost will initiate a request to the deans for a summary report on center and institute activity since the prior review. Deans will review the list of centers and institutes and use annual reports, or any other appropriate mechanism established by the school/college, to determine if the centers and institutes remain active.
02-01-2004, 01-20-2011, 07-29-2015, 04-26-2023