In 2004, in a move designed to reduce pressure on the state budget and to support continued excellence in higher education in Virginia, three of the state’s leading universities – Virginia Tech, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Virginia – developed a proposal to establish a new relationship with the state. Since the proposal, the “Commonwealth Chartered Universities and Colleges Act,” was originally conceived, new legislation has been enacted that offers a three-level program for increased administrative autonomy for all of Virginia’s public institutions.

Passed in July, 2005, The “Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act” gives Virginia’s public colleges and universities greater flexibility and internal control of each institution’s administrative operations, although the state can grant various levels of delegated authority. The net effect for U.Va. is a more reliable funding model, greater effectiveness and efficiency in operations, higher quality educational opportunities, and the ability to react more quickly to needs of the marketplace. In addition, the University benefits significantly from more operating flexibility in areas such as procurement, capital construction, finance, information technology and human resources. You can read the legislation here (HB 2866, SB 1327).

The University of Virginia, along with Virginia Tech and the College of William and Mary, have been granted the highest of three levels of autonomy available under the new system, which University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III described as “a framework for transforming public higher education.” U.Va.’s autonomy is governed by a Management Agreement, the terms of which lay out certain expectations for the University in terms of enrollment, articulation agreements with community colleges around the state, and tuition and fee setting. You can read the Management Agreement here (HB 1502, SB 675).

The management agreement also lays out the parameters for University Human Resources’ creation of a new HR system. As of July 1, 2006, all new salaried (non-faculty) staff hires are designated University staff instead of Classified staff and work under the new human resources system, which was designed the new system in spring 2008 with input from hundreds of employees across grounds.

University Human Resources has solicited input on the new HR system from faculty and staff through focus groups held by an HR consulting service in October 2006, and through an HR Restructuring Survey in April through June of 2007. The latter surveyed all staff and all faculty who supervise staff on the areas that could be changed through restructuring and how those could improve. The results were presented in a series of town hall meetings in September 2007. The survey results were compiled and can be seen in the HR Restructuring Report, as are the Appendices. A joint report with Virginia Tech was released in March 2008.

Task Forces were organized through a process of public nomination and self-nomination. Approximately 300 volunteers attended orientations in late January, 2008, to receive direction on their role in the process. At the end of March, the task forces submitted their recommendations to the University administration for review. Throughout May and June there was an open comment period for the University community on the task force recommendations. In July and August, the task forces addressed the public comments and made the necessary adjustments; and the new plan was announced in September of 2008. From October through December of 2008, Classified Staff and A&P Faculty had the first opportunity to enroll in the new plan. The new plan launched in January, 2009. The University held two more election periods, in 2009 and 2011, before moving to open election in August, 2012. U.Va. continues to make improvements to the University Staff plan in response to employee input.