Peter Lange leaves office with a strong academic vision in place at Duke, but the landscape for higher education continues to change. Here are three major challenges Lange said his successor as provost and other university leaders will confront in the coming years:
Renewing the Faculty: It's clear that it will be some time before the rate of growth of financial resources will be as great as in the decade before the 2008 recession, Lange said. The university must still find some way to bring in faculty with new ideas
"We'll be able to hire on average somewhat fewer faculty members than we were used to," Lange said. "At some point, that's OK, because our arts and sciences faculty-student ratio is already below 8:1, and because you have to make tradeoffs between resources for more faculty and support for the faculty you already have. We're also seeing the rate of faculty retirements slow. But still, our success was based on our ability to renew the faculty."
Research Space. In the 1990s, Duke researchers faced a significant squeeze for research space, a squeeze that eased only after the 1994 opening of the Levine Science Research Center. That began a period of building and renovation that included CIEMAS (2004) and the French Science Center (2007).
"Now we're seeing data that says we're almost back to where we were in 1990," Lange said. "We're going to become squeezed for space in the next five years. One of the questions we face is do we build new space on campus or do we go downtown. If we go downtown and off-campus, how do we maintain the integrity of educational experience?"
Sustaining Distinctiveness: The first two challenges focused on sustaining Duke's traditional core strengths, but this one involves continuing the momentum of some of Duke's innovative strategic decisions.
"This is about finding the best way to sustain our global presence, develop our interdisciplinary research and teaching, and managing 'knowledge in the service of society' in a focused way."