Thursday November 29, 2012

BURLINGTON -- The former interim president of the University of Vermont is returning to campus to head up efforts to retool the school for the 21st century, in keeping with the recommendations of a report he led calling for a sharper focus on technical innovation and a stronger relationship between the university and the state.

"It’s estimated that more than 60 percent of the job openings in this decade will require some form of post-secondary education. And Vermont, frankly, is ill-prepared to meet that challenge," John Bramley said Wednesday at the announcement of his appointment.

Bramley said he’ll focus on better integration of the state’s public schools with its flagship university, and between the university and businesses, to address the problem as he works to implement 11 key recommendations in the June report, "New Ideas for Changing Times: Strengthening the Partnership Between the State of Vermont and the University of Vermont."

One way that relationship won’t be strengthened much, at least right away, is through increased financial support from state government, said Gov. Peter Shumlin. The school, known as UVM, the initials for its Latin name, Universitas Viridis Montis, currently gets about $40 million a year from the state budget -- among the lowest in the country.


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Shumlin said other budget pressures will keep that from going up in the near future.

Shumlin, Bramley and UVM’s new president, Thomas Sullivan, were not specific when asked whether or how the dollars the school gets from the state should be reallocated. Currently, Bramley said, about a quarter of the money goes to UVM’s agriculture and engineering schools, about a quarter to its medical school and about half goes to financial aid for Vermont students.

The report calls in several instances for spending new money; among the recommendations that do so is one saying the engineering school should be doubled in size.

Among its other recommendations are the creation of a new "Vermont Institute," modeled on the Aspen Institute, that "attracts great thinkers and innovators to solve world problems" in the words of its executive summary; and a new "on-campus or off-campus Vermont University Innovation Center to develop new delivery models that address economic development needs across the state to enhance entrepreneurship and job creation."

Bramley said he had agreed to work for the next 18 months on implementing the report’s recommendations, and would receive a stipend of $20,000.