Principles and Guidelines for the Establishment of Centers

The “Principles and Guidelines” were considered over a number of months by the Academic Advisory Group, consisting of the President, the Provost, and Deans, and approved by the Group in final form as of November 5, 2002. They are designed to provide a framework for the establishment and review of centers that supports their desired functions while minimizing negative impact and risk.

Each School or Faculty should have published criteria and a formal approval process for the establishment of centers (or their equivalent under another name) and provide for comprehensive review of their activities at specified intervals. Except as outlined below, new centers or institutes, or any other semi-autonomous programs or projects with annual budgets in excess of $500,000, may be established only with the approval of the Dean and the Provost, subject, where appropriate, to review by the President or Corporation. Such approval is not required for activities with annual budgets in excess of $500,000 that are formed according to the normal procedures of a School within a School’s existing departmental structures, or, in the case of Schools without departments, within existing internal processes for school-wide resource allocation.

A School or Faculty’s process for the establishment and review of such centers, institutes, programs or projects should incorporate the following elements:


  • Each center should have a clearly defined mission that supports the major strategic objectives and core academic mission of the School, and adds value to the School and the University;
  • Centers should contribute to the teaching, research, and/or training missions of the School or Faculty;
  • The mission and activities of the Center should not duplicate those accomplished by an existing department or center within the School, and proposed new centers should be reviewed in the context of other activities that are ongoing within the University to ensure that the University’s overall effort in a given field of inquiry is strengthened;
  • Centers often, though not always, are interdepartmental or interfaculty in character, providing opportunities for new interrelationships within the School, the university, or broader intellectual and other communities;
  • Each center should be directed by a senior faculty member, except in extraordinary circumstances, and the bulk of the center’s work should be carried out under the direction of faculty members;
  • Center directors should ordinarily serve for specified terms, not to exceed five years, subject to renewal by the Dean, or, in the case of interfaculty centers, by the Provost;
  • A center’s academic focus should be defined broadly enough to attract the intellectual and professional participation of a critical mass of faculty members, and students should be involved in a center’s work and activities in significant and systematic ways;
  • A center should not be formed except in circumstances in which several senior faculty members, at least, plan to be seriously involved in the work of the center, and the center’s viability does not depend on the work of a single faculty member;
  • Centers should be financially self-sustaining, or deemed worthy of core support or cost-sharing at the time they are established;
  • Funding for the establishment of centers should be designed with sufficient flexibility to accommodate shifting intellectual priorities or organizational arrangements over time;
  • All centers should be subject to periodic review, with meaningful participation from disinterested outsiders.

Guidelines for Initial Approval

The case for the establishment of a center should include, at a minimum, the following elements:

  • A strategic plan, encompassing academic, financial and operational components, with identifiable objectives covering the initial period of period of operation, or, for an endowed center, outlining longer term objectives with a view toward appropriate flexibility over time;
  • A funding plan adequate to meet the strategic objectives of the center over the expected period of its operation;
  • A steering committee composed of individuals with relevant expertise;
  • Consideration of the mission and work of the proposed center in light of other work within the School or the University in related fields;
  • Provision for annual review by the School or Faculty of the center’s non-faculty academic or research appointments and affiliates, with presumption against such appointments extending beyond two years without prior approval by Dean or his or her designee.
  • Provision for written annual progress reports, measuring the success of the center in meeting its goals and objectives.

Guidelines for Periodic Review

In addition to annual reviews, each center should undergo comprehensive reviews, at intervals not to exceed every five years, by a body consisting of a meaningful proportion of disinterested outside experts with a view to the following:

  • A comprehensive evaluation of the center, including the performance of its director, and an assessment of its intellectual and other contributions to the mission of its School or Faculty;
  • An assessment of the breadth and intensity of senior faculty participation, to ensure that the viability of the center does not depend either intellectually or financially on a single individual;
  • An assessment of the financial and administrative soundness of the center;
  • An assessment, at the time of the review, of the ongoing relevance of the center’s work to the mission of the School or Faculty in which it is housed;
  • A written report containing findings and recommendations for improvement or change, as appropriate.

Reviews aimed at assessing the above-stated objectives should also be conducted on an ad hoc basis at the direction of the Dean of a School or the President or Provost, when there is reason to be concerned about the ongoing ability of a center or program to meet the academic, financial, or operating criteria specified in “Principles and Guidelines” above.

Guidelines for Discontinuance

When it becomes clear that a center, institute, project or program should not continue in existence, the Dean of the School, in close consultation with the Provost (or the Provost, in the case of an interfaculty center or program) should move systematically to discontinue the operations of the entity. Care should be taken with regard to personnel issues, the disposition of funds, the reassignment of activities, as appropriate, and the many other considerations entailed in phasing out an operation. Any issues that risk the creation of financial, legal, or public exposure for the University should be raised early and coordinated closely with the Office of the President and Provost, and such other personnel as necessary and appropriate.