Exploring the Impetus of R2 Universities that Attain R1 Status

Khaleel Seecharan, University of Pennsylvania


Approximately 10% of post-secondary institutions are classified as doctoral universities. The Carnegie Classification model identifies doctoral universities as either research or professional/doctoral universities. Research universities are further classified as R1, considered the most organizationally complex and prestigious, with very high research activity; or R2, next-tier research universities with high research activity. This study examined the increasing number of institutions shifting from R2 classification to R1, and the early resultant institutional and public policy tradeoffs arising with reclassification. Research universities have evolved over time and are presently recognized as having tripartite missions of teaching, service, and research. As research universities aspire to increase their prestige and reputation, they do so in a system that incentivizes research productivity and output. Although public research universities enjoy strong societal interest, they continuously navigate financial stress. Governed by publicly appointed boards, they are often directly regulated by or indirectly impacted by state agencies. Public research universities aspiring to transition from R2 to R1 status do so while competing for limited market resources and funding from state legislatures. In an effort increase their prestige and competitiveness, many public research universities emulate the prestigious post-secondary models that attract top faculty and students, shifting to R1 status over time. Yet pursuing R1 status may introduce unintended consequences and tradeoffs during and after the process of achieving R1 status. This study revealed R2 institutions seeking to attain R1 status undergo institutional isomorphism, defined as a phenomenon in which organizations in a similar field grow more and more alike as they evolve. The study determined that R2 institutions face external and societal pressures, adopt models from successful research institutions, and experience change throughout their faculty, administration, and professional networks as they attain R1 status. Specifically, this study examines the 2010–2018 increase in the number of R2 public research universities pursuing R1 status, the strategies those institutions implemented to attain R1 status, and the early resultant institutional and public policy tradeoffs arising with R1 status.

Subject Area

Higher education|Higher Education Administration

Recommended Citation

Seecharan, Khaleel, "Exploring the Impetus of R2 Universities that Attain R1 Status" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28025587.