The Maryland Senate has given its approval to a controversial bill that would combine the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, but allow the two institutions to keep separate presidents.
The bill, backed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., seeks to build on an existing partnership between the universities known as “MPowering the State,” which supporters say has led to an increase in joint research funding.
Senators approved the measure 33 votes to 10 on Friday. The measure now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.
The proposal initially included a provision that would have allowed the University System of Maryland Board of Regents to appoint a single president to oversee the two institutions when one of the current presidents steps down. That provision was removed by members of the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee after it drew criticism from some university officials.
University of Maryland, Baltimore President Jay A. Perman expressed concern that having a single president would jeopardize the autonomy of his campus and its commitments to the surrounding West Baltimore community.
University System of Maryland officials, including former Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan, also objected to that provision but supported the general idea of increased collaboration between the two campuses.
The bill also creates a new, Baltimore-based Center for Advanced Ventures, which would help facilitate the commercialization of university research and establish new technology companies in the city, and a College Park-based entrepreneurship center that would help develop programs in fields like neuroscience, virtual reality and cybersecurity.
Combining the institutions into a single University of Maryland is also intended to boost the federal research rankings of the schools in the hopes of spurring further research spending — a goal that may be complicated by the fact that the schools won’t have a single president.
But Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, the bill’s lead sponsor, said there may still be mechanisms where the two campuses can jointly report their research expenditures. The bill instructs the two presidents to explore those mechanisms.