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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A joint graduate program in biomedical engineering between the University of Tennessee-Memphis and the University of Memphis was approved Friday by the UT board of trustees.

It would be the first joint degree program between the state’s higher education systems. The program, which would require approval by UT’s full board, the State Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, will offer both master of science and doctoral degrees.

UT President Joe Johnson said he is pleased to be working toward this cooperative “first” for Tennessee higher education. Joint programs between university systems are rare in the United States, he said.

Biomedical engineering brings together medical science, engineering, physical science, and applied mathematics to improve knowledge of disease, to improve health care, and to reduce costs.

 “We are enthusiastic about bringing this proposal to our board of trustees,” Johnson said. “It would meet an important need of the people of Tennessee — a need met more efficiently by the cooperation of folks in the board of regents and UT.”

 “We are pleased to participate in this joint program with UT,” board of regents Chancellor Charles Smith said. “It is a result of ongoing collaboration between the two universities. The University of Memphis currently offers the M.S. in biomedical engineering and a concentration of biomedical science courses in its engineering Ph.D. Our two programs together with health science courses from UT-Memphis allows us to provide this much needed program at virtually no additional cost to the taxpayers.”

 Biomedical engineering faculty at the University of Memphis and UT-Memphis have been working together for several years, Johnson said. Graduate students and faculty at UM use UT’s clinical facilities, and UT faculty use UM’s engineering and physical sciences resources. UM’s doctoral program in engineering already has a concentration in biomedical engineering.

 Students in the new program would have access to both institutions’ full academic resources — faculty, courses, libraries, laboratories and other facilities. Admission and financial aid would be handled with a single application.

 UT and regents staff will work with the THEC to identify consultants to review the proposed program.