Wisconsin Idea Partnership

Building a Better University of Wisconsin System

Frequently Asked Questions

The Wisconsin Idea Partnership

  1. What is the difference between the Wisconsin Idea Partnership and the New Badger Partnership?

    The Wisconsin Idea Partnership and the New Badger Partnership both seek to improve efficiencies by freeing UW institutions of cumbersome state regulations in areas like budgeting, financial management, tuition, human resources, construction, and purchasing.  The difference lies in a significant structural/governance change.  The New Badger Partnership (as presented in the Governor’s biennial budget) would split UW-Madison from the UW System. The Wisconsin Idea Partnership proposes a unified UW System structure that includes UW-Madison, in which all campuses benefit from new administrative freedom. See this comparison.

  2. What is the purpose of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership?

    The goal of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership is to enhance public higher education in Wisconsin, preserving broad, affordable access to a high-quality college education through a single, unified System and giving all UW institutions broader capabilities to manage their own resources. Thirteen UW chancellors, the UW System President, and the UW Board of Regents have endorsed the plan. 

  3. Will the Wisconsin Idea Partnership help campuses be accountable to Wisconsin’s taxpayers?

    Yes. Under one university system, taxpayers and legislators can hold all UW System institutions accountable to the same high standards, and compare performance using common empirical measures.  The UW System produces a detailed Accountability Report every year, which is presented in public, posted online, and distributed to all legislative offices.  Going forward, the Accountability Report will be enhanced to address key performance indicators, including the UW System’s efforts to implement new managerial flexibilities and delegate that new authority to local campuses.

  4. Why was the UW System created in the first place?  Does it matter if UW-Madison is separated from the other institutions?

    The UW System is the result of the merger of the state’s two public university systems in 1971. Former Governor Patrick Lucey initiated the merger to save taxpayer money. Looking back on that effort, he said, “It seemed to me that it was not appropriate to have two Boards of Regents competing with each other for state dollars, that it would make a lot more sense to have a single Board of Regents for the whole system.” (WUWM interview, March 2011).  After years of careful planning, the merger resulted in efficiency, collaboration, and the rise of one of the premier systems of higher education in the world. Separation of UW-Madison from the UW System would mean a return to a less cohesive approach to public higher education in the state, leading to increased competition among the UW campuses and wasteful duplication.  Removing UW-Madison from the System will also be very costly in the near term.

Need to Innovate

  1. What will be the effects on campuses of the cuts proposed in the 2011-13 biennial budget?

    Under the proposed biennial budget, the UW System’s budget would be cut by $250 million in General Purpose Revenue (GPR).  UW-Madison would receive a 13% reduction in state support, and would be separated from the UW System as an independent “public authority.” All other UW institutions would receive an 11% cut in taxpayer funding, but with no new flexibility to manage those reductions and preserve educational quality.  A fact sheet outlines the major budget provisions affecting the UW System.

  2. Under the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, would campuses be able to use the funds they generate to enhance their educational outcomes?

    Yes. The model for the Wisconsin Idea Partnership would allow all campuses, including UW-Madison, to keep the extra funds they generate locally.  The Wisconsin Idea Partnership provides all the same functional flexibilities incorporated in the New Badger Partnership, but under one unified system.  Every campus in the UW System needs the tools to innovate in this 21st-century economy, and to respond to the State’s severe budget situation.

  3. Are all UW campuses prepared to handle flexibilities if they receive them?

    Yes.  All campuses are ready to manage revenues and expenses if they are given new flexibility to move funding across functional areas without “silos” that are now imposed by the state. Leaders across the UW System are eager to share innovative techniques and apply cost-saving measures, pooling both resources and expertise wherever necessary.  Under both the Governor’s budget and the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, UW-Madison would receive limited authority over construction and purchasing – areas where other campuses may need to develop new capacity or utilize existing UW System support.

UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Idea Partnership

  1. Does the Wisconsin Idea Partnership provide all the flexibilities needed by UW-Madison?

    The model for the Wisconsin Idea Partnership requests the same functional flexibilities proposed under the New Badger Partnership – including the ability to generate and manage revenue – but as part of one unified system.  See this side-by-side comparison.

  2. What would it mean if UW-Madison were to be turned into a public authority?

    If UW-Madison were to be removed from the UW System as an independent public authority, there would be many near-term costs and long-term risks.  The very act of removing UW-Madison from the UW System would be complicated and expensive, but the risks go beyond administrative concerns.  See this letter to Governor Walker, outlining some of those concerns, as well as President Kevin P. Reilly’s testimony before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance.

  3. Are there risks for UW-Madison associated with a separation from the UW System?

    Yes.  Various people have expressed concerns about the proposed new Board of Trustees, and its authority to promulgate a variety of new policies and rules that will affect faculty, staff, and students.  As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, former UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley warned that “breaking off from the system would only solidify the perception across the state that Madison is an ‘elitist’ institution with little connection to the rural communities that dominate Wisconsin.  The campus has benefited politically from its affiliation with regional institutions, and it risks losing that advantage by going it alone..." (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 25, 2011: http://chronicle.com/article/U-of-Wisconsin-at-Madisons/126532/)

  4. Is there an alternative to the split proposed in the 2011-13 biennial budget?

    Yes.  An alternative is the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, a proposal to keep the UW System together and to give all UW institutions the same capability to manage their own resources.  Please refer to the Wisconsin Idea Partnership website: http://www.wisconsin.edu/wip/.

  5. UW-Madison indicates that if it were to become a public authority, existing partnerships with UW campuses would remain. Is this true?

    UW-Madison cannot guarantee that these collaborations will stay in place.  UW-Madison would have a new Board of Trustees, and the structure and purview of that Board is still up for debate in the state legislature.  The current structure of the UW System encourages alignment and collaboration, but it is impossible to predict how relationships will look in 10 years if UW-Madison were functioning as an independent entity. 

  6. UW-Madison has said that the other UW campuses could retain the “University of Wisconsin” name if UW-Madison is a public authority, and UW-Madison would not drop its “-Madison” suffix. Is this true?

    Nothing in the proposed 2011-13 budget bill changes the name of any UW institution.  However, there is no guarantee that subsequent UW-Madison leaders will not lobby for such a change in the future.

  7. Is the proposal to change UW-Madison to a public authority modeled after the UW Hospitals and Clinics public authority?

    It took several years and input from multiple stakeholders to create a public authority for the University Hospital and Clinics (UWHC).  The Governor’s proposal to change UW-Madison to a public authority occurred within the past several months and was announced without seeking public input. Today, the UWHC operates as a non-state entity with very little taxpayer funding.

Following this Issue

  1. How can I offer comments on the Wisconsin Idea Partnership proposal?

    The State Legislature will decide whether to endorse the Governor's proposal to separate UW-Madison from the System.  To express support for a unified University of Wisconsin System, please contact your state legislators.  Contact information is available at the Wisconsin Legislature's website. You can also express your ideas to President Reilly and the Board of Regents by sending an email to wip@uwsa.edu.

  2. How can I keep up to date on coverage of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership?

    The budget repair bill and biennial budget have been generating many news stories on a variety of topics.  To keep informed of UW System-related stories, visit us on Facebook or Twitter.  You can also visit our webpage: http://www.wisconsin.edu/wip/news.htm