September 18, 1998
KALAMAZOO -- The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees approved a university-wide policy Sept. 18 intended to clearly define the nature of different categories of academic units.
Trustees accepted definitions brought to the board by Dr. Timothy Light, provost and vice president for academic affairs. The definitions spell out the parameters of academic units called "centers," "institutes" and "schools."
"This is simply an attempt to assure that everyone at the University has a clear understanding of the mission and role of our various academic specialty units," Light said. "Over the years, as such units have increased in number, there has been some confusion about what each term really means."
According to the new policy, a center is a unit formed for the purpose of linkage and visibility and focused on a theme or set of skills. Frequently interdisciplinary in nature, centers do not offer degree programs, but may sometimes offer courses.
An institute is similar to a center but is a degree-granting unit. Typically interdisciplinary, course work for a degree may be offered by the institute itself. More often, courses will be offered by various departments already in existence.
The new policy defines a school as a single-discipline unit which has an identification in the public mind as something beyond that of a department. Schools may have significant subdivisions such that students may apply for admission and take degrees through the subdivision rather than through the central unit.
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