Top Tier Initiative

By 2025, UNLV will be recognized as a top tier public university in research, education, and community impact.

UNLV’s Top Tier Mission

UNLV’s diverse faculty, students, staff, and alumni promote community well-being and individual achievement through education, research, scholarship, creative activities, and clinical services. We stimulate economic development and diversification, foster a climate of innovation, promote health, and enrich the cultural vitality of the communities that we serve.

 alt="UNLV Campus circa 1994"

UNLV Campus 1994

In 1994, UNLV is a Carnegie-defined "Comprehensive Masters-Granting University."

 alt="UNLV Campus circa 2014"

UNLV Campus 2014

By 2014, UNLV is a Carnegie-defined "Research University/High Activity."

Our Path

UNLV has always been an ambitious university with a longstanding mission to serve its growing and dynamic region.

The UNLV Top Tier Initiative (formerly called the Path to Tier One) is an extension of our vision of entering the top 100 American research universities, as designated by the Carnegie Foundation as a Highest Research Activity (R1) University.

The best way to envision the difference is that becoming a R1 University is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of becoming a fully-functioning, Top Tier university. Top Tier means:

  1. faculty members engaged in high-quality research, scholarship, and creative activity, whether or not that research, scholarship, or creative activity leads to increases in research expenditures or the graduation of more Ph.D. students (both of which are necessary for RU/VH status);
  2. a superb student educational experience;
  3. an academic health center that has a fully accredited medical school that is integrated with the other health science units as well as with faculty members whose research overlaps with the health science division;
  4. a clearer gateway to facilitate community partnerships with UNLV; and
  5. a significantly better functioning infrastructure that provides meaningful opportunities for shared governance.

During 2014-2015, we worked to develop a comprehensive, data-driven plan that further defined our vision, assessed our current environment, identified needs and the associated costs, and then set forth strategies and tactics for addressing those needs. Through the work of campus and community constituents, we formally assessed the university and strategically analyzed what it takes to become a Top Tier Institution. We examined our organizational structure, our policies and culture, and our leadership and staffing. The process resulted in agreed-upon, transparent, and measurable goals for moving forward.

The planning process led to amending our mission as we defined our vision, mission, goals, and strategies. The university recognizes that the Top Tier strategic plan requires ongoing work and reflection. To that end, UNLV leadership initiated both a broad and in-depth review in fall 2017 through summer 2018. In addition to the core theme/pathway goal objectives and metrics, secondary objectives were developed along with supporting key measures and indicators that demonstrate success toward progress for completion of the Top Tier plan. These measures provide a clear picture of year-to-year progress, supplement the core themes/pathway goal and their metrics, and consist of both quantitative and qualitative measures.

The university recognizes the importance of Infrastructure and Shared Governance in all aspects, and this foundational goal area is measured and monitored as part of the strategic plan. An improved infrastructure and a healthy shared government model are both pivotal in order to accomplish the four pathway goals and core themes. The university continually develops and leverages the conditions necessary for success, which includes an effective organizational structure, an improved infrastructure, a service-oriented culture, meaningful faculty engagement in shared governance, and the capacity for informed decision-making and informed risk-taking.

In addition to the foundational goal of Infrasturcture and Shared Governance, there are four core themes/pathway goals:

  • Student Achievement
  • Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity
  • Academic Health Center
  • Community Partnerships
Graphic showing the four themes built on the infrastructure core theme.

How long will it take UNLV to achieve Top Tier status?

The planning process will create a map to guide the university as we progress to Top Tier status. Some of this journey is within UNLV's control, but some of it will depend on the resources and investments that the community, state, and private partners are willing to make. The Top Tier Initiative will not be achieved overnight. With the will and hard work of our faculty, staff, and students and the right level of investment of our public and private partners, UNLV could be designated by the Carnegie Foundation as a Highest Research Activity (R1) university within 10 to 20 years.