Office of the President

UNLV Tier 1 Initiative

The UNLV Tier 1 initiative is an extension of the university’s longstanding strategic plan objective of entering the top 100 American research universities by attaining a Carnegie Foundation designation as a "Research University/Very High" (RU/VH).

Currently, there are 108 universities with the Very High Research designation, but none are in Nevada. UNLV is currently designated by Carnegie as a “High” Research University, which puts us in the top 4.5%* of U.S. universities, but Las Vegas is the largest metropolitan area without a top-tier research university. UNLV’s ambition and mission is to fill this need. 

The state budget cuts and retrenchment from 2008-12 set the university back in many respects in pursuit of this goal. With the stabilization of the budget and regional economy and the adoption of state and regional economic development plans, UNLV is developing a business plan to meet Nevada’s needs for a Tier 1 research university in the form of a data-driven set of costs, performance targets, and anticipated return on investment projected over a 10-20 year time horizon.

*Note: There are 4,600 institutions identified as colleges and universities in the U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Postsecondary Education database. Carnegie has ranked 207 as high or very high. UNLV is ranked high.

Performance Targets

The central goal of this process is to use data on UNLV’s current capacities to develop performance targets in areas such as:

  • Faculty size
  • Support staff
  • Infrastructure (including research space)
  • Undergraduate student demographic profile
  • Undergraduate and graduate student success (including completion rates and aggregate degree awards)
  • Degree productivity and efficiency
  • Overall research expenditures


To develop performance targets over a 5-, 10- and 20-year horizon, the university is using comparative data from several institutions that provide useful benchmarks – namely, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Arizona State.

These comparators are Western public universities with an RU/VH designation. They were chosen because their similarities to UNLV. For the most part, these institutions are in urban settings and function in coordinated statewide higher education systems. Most of these have comparable student size, and most do not have schools of medicine or agriculture.

  • Comparative data in revenue and gifts, expenditures, tuition and fees, research space and total square footage.

Two-Part Plan

The Tier 1 initiative will consist of two parts.

  1. The first is to communicate to key stakeholders on campus, the Regents, state government officials, and community supporters about the gaps between UNLV and its Tier 1 comparators, the benchmarks for achieving that status, and the anticipated benefits to the region and the state of UNLV attaining Tier 1 status.
  2. The second is an academic planning exercise to determine how we should allocate resources, in terms of faculty lines, capital expenditures, and research indirect return to achieve the goals of increased faculty productivity and overall research activity and economic impact.

Next Step

The next step in this initiative is an analysis of the "gap" in investment for UNLV to become a Tier 1 educational and research institution and a projection of the potential economic impact of closing that gap.

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