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Tickle College of Engineering Communications
A female student explains her work, on a tablet, to other students in a lab at the Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building.

The Southeastern Conference announced Monday that all 14 of its member institutions have achieved the highest designation for research activity by the Carnegie Foundation.

The SEC became the fourth conference to have all its members achieve the designation R1 Doctoral University—Very High Research Activity, joining the Ivy League, Big Ten, and Pac-12.

“The R1 designation brings a level of prestige and national recognition to every university that receives it,” said Robert Nobles, interim vice chancellor for research. “Students—and their parents—understand that attending an SEC school will result in a top-tier educational experience that promotes experiential learning and research.”

UT received its R1 designation in 1973, the first year that Carnegie published its institution classifications. In fiscal year 2017, UT had a record year for research expenditures, spending more than $204 million on research through external grants and partnerships. The university expects to surpass that record in 2018 expenditures.

The university’s partnership with Oak Ridge National Lab contributes significantly to its research profile. UT and ORNL share 200 faculty members, 14 Governor’s Chairs, and three distinguished scientists.

“UT’s broad research enterprise, including our partnership with ORNL, offers our students the opportunity to work beside and learn from some of the world’s leading experts in a variety of fields,” said Provost David Manderscheid. “Even more importantly, our faculty are using their research to find cures for diseases, solve society’s biggest challenges, and make the lives of Tennesseans and people around the world better.”

By continuing to grow its research, UT is providing more opportunities for students to work alongside faculty in laboratories, in the field, and in other settings. In 2018, about 17 percent of undergraduate students participated in research, up from fewer than 2 percent just five years ago. These students—like Rena Abdurehman, who was one of our record 19 Fulbright scholars this year, and Grant Rigney, who was just named UT’s ninth Rhodes Scholar—go on to conduct research around the world.