Board action resulted from a comprehensive six-month study of the advantages and disadvantages of merging the two universities in response to a Maryland Joint Chairmen’s directive. Based on the study, the board concluded that a structured collaboration between UMB and UMD would yield more success than a merger.

This statement, made as part of a new collaborative arrangement announced March 1st in Maryland, speaks volumes about the fatally flawed Barer Commission proposal to fold Rutgers-Camden in Rowan University.  In Maryland, a public process, based on research and evaluation, lead to a decision that few can object to.

The two Maryland universities are quite different than those affected in New Jersey.  As part of the same university system and as already established research institutions, a merger was at least imaginable. But evaluators took another approach. And look at what is expected from the collaboration:  “…we are establishing this special new working relationship so that we can magnify the scale and impact of our education, research, and commercialization,” says UMD President Wallace Loh.”

Among the benefits cited from collaboration are:

  • Combining the research efforts at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research-a joint UMB-UMD institute-at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Montgomery County with new educational programs in health, law, human services and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), business, and the social sciences. USG is one of the university system’s two higher education regional centers.
  • Developing new educational offerings and activities including the University of Maryland Scholars Program, through which students from each institution will engage in research led by faculty at the other institution.
  • Implementing a process to facilitate joint appointments and joint grant submissions.

Sounds a lot like the goals set forth for South Jersey. We don’t need to imitate Maryland’s programs. What we need to do, to achieve mutually agreed on goals to advance higher education, is to get serious about how best to aggregate resources.  The case for merger has not been made. Let the argument for collaboration deepen.