University Policy 105
Centers and Institutes

Approved by Executive Council: February 23, 2009
Posted: February 23, 2009
Policy Topic: Research & Sponsored Activities
Administering Office: Graduate School and Research


As a comprehensive university with a mission of regional engagement, WCU seeks mechanisms to develop partnerships that may focus efforts on issues common to the region. Some of the most effective partnerships are commonly known as Centers and Institutes. Centers and Institutes employ highly competent faculty, staff and students and offer constituents a critical mass of talent that surpasses the capabilities of each of their individual organizations. Supported by a strong academic system, these partnerships create new and diverse opportunities that expand the knowledge, economic condition and quality of life in North Carolina and the nation.


2.1 This Regulation is specifically intended to facilitate the establishment and operation of appropriate WCU institutional Centers and Institutes, to prevent the creation of units that unnecessarily duplicate the mission and programs of existing units, and to give WCU administrators responsibility in their management. This Regulation will apply to all organized research, instructional or public service units that represent themselves to the university community and to the general public as being a “Center” or an “Institute” of WCU except service centers (e.g. Women’s Center) or the naming of facilities (e.g. Center for Advanced Technology) when not otherwise subject to this regulation.

2.2 Inter-institutional centers and institutes are defined as involving the participation of more than one institution of the UNC system, including shared administrative and fiscal oversight or substantial involvement of more than one UNC institution in on-going activities. Centers are also considered inter-institutional if the General Administration provides fiscal and/or administrative oversight. Chapter 400.5 of The Policy Manual of The University of North Carolina is the governing document for UNC Inter-institutional Centers and Institutes.

2.3 Because the designation as a Center or an Institute connotes an organizational representation of WCU’s significant programmatic capacity, such designations are reserved for those proposed units that have complied with this regulation.


3.1 Center

Centers endeavor to cross disciplines and merge complementary fields of exploration that may exist in different departments but that when joined in partnership serve to advance knowledge in directions not previously envisioned. A WCU Center is an organized unit designed to facilitate interdisciplinary activity in any university mission (instruction, research, outreach). A Center may be designated as a research, public service and/or instructional unit. Centers may also be Membership Centers, and/or seek shared industrial support to maximize technology transfer impact.

3.2 Institute

An Institute is an organized unit that has a much larger-scale mission and set of goals and objectives than a Center and usually involves a greater involvement of faculty. An Institute may create Centers as administrative units within its organization. If funding is given to an Institute with the specification that it be used for a Center, that Center must be established as a separate unit of the Institute using this Regulation.


4.1 Provost

The Provost has been delegated the responsibility to act on behalf of the Chancellor in all administrative and oversight matters related to Centers and Institutes.

4.2 Responsible Administrators

In collaboration with the Dean of the Graduate School and Research (GSR) it will be the responsibility of the responsible unit head (e.g. Dean of the College) in which the Center or Institute is established, or the appointed designee(s) of these officers (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “responsible administrator”) to establish, by rules, the internal procedures by which his or her unit will review a Center or Institute proposal or any other action proposed for a Center or Institute. All such Center or Institute proposal reviews or any other recommended action(s) made to the Dean of GSR by the responsible administrator(s) will have been made in accordance with the aforementioned internal procedures. All actions will be made only upon the final recommendation of the responsible administrator.

4.3 The Director and Advisory Committee(s)

All Centers and Institutes must have a director and at least one Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee has only advisory responsibilities to the Center or Institute and gives immediate assistance to the director and to the responsible administrator in the form of recommendations. An advisory committee is responsible for advising the center on programmatic direction and in the case of membership centers on the distribution of membership fees for project funding.

The Center or Institute Director shall provide overall coordination of all programmatic activities, where appropriate seek external funding, oversee the management of day-to-day center operations, convene periodic Advisory Committee meetings, receive advice, execute the directions provided by the Advisory Committee and ensure the viability of the Center or Institute in meeting its objectives.


5.1 Creating Centers and Institutes

Creating a Center or Institute is a two-step authorization process requested through the Chancellor. The first step is the Authorization to Plan, which will last for no more than two (2) years and must be approved by the Chancellor; and the second step is the Authorization to Establish, which must be approved by the WCU Board of Trustees.

5.1.1 Authorization to Plan

In consultation with appropriate responsible administrators, the lead faculty and/or staff will prepare an electronic "authorization to plan" letter that must clearly address the following points:

  • Relationship of the Center or Institute to the mission of WCU.
  • Goals and objectives.
  • The value added beyond the existing structure of WCU or through existing Centers and Institutes.
  • Similar units that exist elsewhere in the UNC System and the state, and any proposed relationships with them.
  • Organizational structure, including the units involved and the composition of the advisory committee(s).
  • Faculty and staff involved (including the name of the proposed director).
  • Instructional programs to be accomplished.
  • Sources, amounts, and duration of funds required and available for at least five (5) years.
  • Required matching or cost sharing funds.
  • Space and capital equipment requirements.
  • Support and mentoring plans regarding the promotion and tenure of participating junior faculty.

The “Authorization to Plan” letter must be forwarded by the appropriate, responsible administrator to the Dean of GSR. In consultation with the responsible administrator and appropriate mission-specific Executive Officer(s) (such as the Provost), Dean of GSR will assess completeness of the request and determine the most appropriate review and oversight bodies (particularly relevant faculty committees) from which to solicit comments and coordinate a comment period. Upon resolution of requested edits and consideration of other comments, the Provost shall make a recommendation to the Chancellor regarding the authorization to plan the Center or Institute. If the Chancellor approves the recommendation, planning may begin. The Provost shall notify the relevant administrators of the Chancellor's decision.

5.1.2 Authorization to Establish

At any time during the two-year planning period, the lead faculty/staff may submit a request to establish the Center or Institute. The faculty and staff involved will prepare a written proposal that will include an electronic draft of the Charter of the Center or Institute (and draft Bylaws, and Membership Agreement, if required). The draft must include all of the following:

  • The name of the proposed Center or Institute.
  • The specific mission, objectives, and goals of the proposed Center or Institute.
  • The Center or Institute's relationship to or potential impact upon the existing academic departments, colleges and/or schools, and other Centers and Institutes in the UNC System.
  • The name of the proposed director, and a detailed description of any proposed advisory committees or directive boards.
  • Budget estimates for the first (1st) year of operation, projections for the following four (4) years, and anticipated sources of funding.
  • A statement identifying the current space and capital equipment that have been secured for the operation of the Center or Institute and realistic projections of future needs.
  • A statement regarding the efficacy of plans implemented to assure proper recognition of participating junior faculty where relevant.
  • A statement about anticipated effects of the proposed unit on the instructional programs of WCU, and the provisions for advanced or graduate training or degree programs.
  • A description of the proposed Center or Institute's administrative structure, including an organizational chart showing the relationship of the proposed Center or Institute to the existing organizations of WCU and the internal organization of the proposed Center or Institute.
  • A set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to judge the effectiveness of the Center or Institute.
  • Any additional information that may bear directly upon the proposal.

The proposal must be forwarded, with the responsible administrator(s)' endorsement, to the Dean of GSR. In consultation with the responsible administrator and appropriate mission-specific Executive Officer(s), Dean of GSR will assess completeness of the request and determine the most appropriate review and oversight bodies from which to solicit comments and coordinate a comment period. Upon resolution of requested edits and a reasonable consideration of other comments, the Provost shall make a recommendation to the Chancellor. If the Chancellor approves the recommendation to establish the Center or Institute, the Chancellor shall forward the recommendation to the Board of Trustees for its decision. If the decision is to discontinue planning, the Provost will notify the responsible administrator of the decision.

5.2 Managing an Established Center or Institute

Management of an established Center includes monitoring and reviewing Center or Institute activities and plans through periodic contact (site visits, Advisory Committee meetings, internal and external professional evaluations, etc.) and reporting (annual University and Center/Institute written reports), modifying Center or Institute activities and plans as required, or when warranted, disestablishing a Center or Institute.

5.2.1 Center or Institute Reports

Each Center or Institute is required to submit biennial reports to the Dean of GSR with copies to the responsible administrator(s). The report will be submitted every other March to the Dean of GSR.

5.2.2 Periodic Center or Institute Evaluations

Centers and Institutes must be evaluated at least once every five (5) years. This evaluation will be made by a professional review panel assembled by the Provost and Dean of GSR, or by an internal review panel assembled by the responsible administrator(s) and approved by the Provost. Additional or more frequent evaluations may be necessary if mandated by the Charter, Bylaws, or funding agency.

The specific questions that will be addressed in the course of the evaluation are as follows:

  • Is current funding of the Center or Institute sufficient to continue its operation?
  • Are support, training, and graduation rates of students consistent with the Center or Institute's stated goals and objectives?
  • Is faculty participation sufficient to continue Center or Institute operations?
  • Is the quality of scholarly activity by faculty, professional staff, and students reflected in its output (publications, patents, copyrights, etc.)?
  • Do current operations of the Center or Institute agree with the most recent Charter, goals, and objectives of the Center or Institute? (Does it duplicate the efforts of other Centers and Institutes?)
  • Does the financial audit and professional evaluation demonstrate that the Center or Institute is being managed properly? (Were any serious problems discovered?)
  • Are required matching funds, start-up funds, or capital equipment still appropriate and available? (If the Center or Institute was originally funded with finite-term [three (3) year, five (5) year, etc.] start-up funds from the University or other granting agencies, has it been able to attract sufficient outside funds to continue without additional institutional support?)
  • Is space required for operation of the Center or Institute available?
  • Are the Center or Institute clients being served?
  • Does the Center or Institute demonstrate effectiveness through its key performance indicators?

Upon completion of the Evaluation, the responsible administrator(s) shall make a recommendation to the Provost regarding the continuation of the Center or Institute. The Provost shall make a recommendation to the Chancellor for action by the Board of Trustees.

5.2.3 Changes to the Name, Mission, or Personnel of a Center or Institute

In the normal operation of a Center or Institute, it is expected that there will be evolutionary changes to the Center's name, mission and personnel. For changes in personnel, such as the center director, the responsible administrator(s) will report the change in writing to the Dean of GSR. Any changes to the name and/or the mission of the Center or Institute must be reviewed and approved by the responsible administrator(s), the Provost and the Chancellor. The Center Director must submit a written proposal to the responsible administrator(s) and the Director of SPARCS justifying the need for the proposed changes and illustrating how the change will better reflect the current activities of the Center or Institute. A request for a change in name may not be used to make major changes to the fundamental mission(s) of the Center or Institute as stated in its Request to Establish.

5.2.4 Disestablishment of a WCU Center or Institute

If the focus, performance (including costs) or mission of a Center or Institute is no longer appropriate, the Center or Institute will be disestablished by the Chancellor after consultation with the Executive Council.

5.2.5 Intellectual Property

All intellectual property created by WCU Centers and Institutes is the property of the university as provided under published university policies and regulations. Whenever intellectual property terms and conditions are to be included in official documents (e.g., research agreements, member or industry affiliate agreements, etc.), such terms shall be presented to the Dean of GSR for a coordinated review with the Office of Technology Transfer. Intellectual property provisions must be clearly defined in the Center/Institute Membership Agreement, even if they are included in the Bylaws.

*The WCU Policy on Centers and Institutes has been adapted from the NC State Policy REG10.10.4


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