About the UT System
The University of Tennessee System is comprised of campuses at Knoxville, Chattanooga, Pulaski and Martin; the Health Science Center at Memphis; and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service.
The UT System has a presence in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Through the combined force of education, research and outreach, the University serves students, business and industry, schools, governments, organizations and residents statewide.
The University is the state’s oldest and largest public higher education institution, tracing its beginnings to the founding of Blount College in Knoxville in 1794, two years before Tennessee became a state. The UT System was formed in 1968.
Read more history: tennessee.edu/history/
The president is the chief executive officer of the UT System and oversees the operation of its campuses and institutes. The 12-member UT Board of Trustees governs the statewide UT System.
The UT System Administration Strategic Plan, determines the University’s vision and direction with the following goals to ensure mission fulfillment, good stewardship and purposeful use of resources:
- Enhancing educational excellence
- Expanding research capacities
- Fostering outreach and engagement
- Ensuring workforce and administrative excellence
- Advocating for UT
The UT System enrolls about 54,000 undergraduate and graduate students statewide, and more than 13,000 students graduate from UT campuses each year with bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees. The University has a substantial role in helping the state achieve Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with at least a two-year degree to 55 percent by 2025. UT faculty and staff are working to increase graduation and retention rates, which determine state appropriations approved and funded through the Complete College Tennessee Act (CCTA). Enacted in 2010, the CCTA replaced a funding formula that rewarded inputs such as headcount instead of outcomes such as degree progression.
UT Knoxville (72.1 percent) leads all Tennessee public institutions in six-year graduation rates, followed by UT Chattanooga (53.7 percent) and UT Martin (51.7 percent). In 2015, the UT System, in partnership with the state’s public and private colleges and universities, launched the Tennessee Reverse Transfer program. It allows students who transfer from a Tennessee community college before completing a two-year degree to retroactively receive that credential when requirements are met in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. To date, more than 5,000 reverse transfer degrees have been awarded to Tennessee transfer students.
Research is a critical part of the University’s mission as a land-grant institution. UT faculty and students system-wide are involved in research, adding to the body of knowledge in academic disciplines and providing solutions to everyday problems. In fiscal 2017, the UT System had a record $481 million in research and sponsored program expenditures.
The UT System is among fewer than 10 universities across the country with a prestigious management role with a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory1. Through UT-Battelle, the University has managed Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for the Department of Energy since 2000, while UT collaboration with Oak Ridge dates back more than 50 years. ORNL is the nation’s largest open-science laboratory, with an annual budget of $1.65 billion, and UT is ORNL’s largest research partner, with 214 UT faculty who have joint appointments with the lab. UT and ORNL operate four joint institutes on the ORNL campus: heavy ion research (JIHIR), biological sciences (JIBS), neutron sciences (JINS) and computational sciences (JICS). The fifth UT-ORNL joint institute, in advanced materials (JIAM), is the first and only such facility in the history of the partnership to be located on UT property—the University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm. Sixteen world-class scientists and researchers have been appointed UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs since the program began in 2006.
In 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that a proposed UT-led consortium of universities, manufacturers and national laboratories—the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI)—would join four other White-House backed institutes to accelerate advanced manufacturing. IACMI is a $259-million public-private partnership—with $70 million in DOE funding and $189 million from its partners. In 2016, the White House announced UT’s participation in the Southeast Manufacturing Innovation Hub, an opportunity IACMI is using to build on growing partnerships between institutions in the region while developing technological innovation to improve advanced manufacturing efficiency in the U.S.
The University continually seeks new opportunities for partnering with the private sector toward leveraging the UT-Oak Ridge relationship and growing expertise of the University’s research faculty.
The University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm was envisioned as a hub of public-private partnerships where scientific discovery can address real-world business and industry questions. Following the UT-ORNL JIAM building, completed in 2015, the campus’ first private tenant began construction in 2016 on the second building at the research park, a 45,000-square-foot facility to house Civil & Environmental Consultants (CEC). The move will allow Pittsburgh-based CEC to partner with UT and ORNL, better reach clients in the region, and provide real-world experience to students. More tenants and new buildings are set to follow.
The UT Research Foundation (UTRF) facilitates technology transfer – moving innovations to the marketplace – by licensing and patenting technologies from across the UT System. During fiscal year 2021, UTRF received 175 new innovation disclosures, 51 licenses were executed, and 113 patents filed. UTRF actively manages more than 200 technology licenses and supports 45 active startup companies based on UT technologies. In the last five years, UTRF has filed 514 patent applications, had 149 patents issue and totaled an impact of over $393 million to benefit the region. UTRF has also been recognized nationally by AUTM for its outstanding contributions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to deliver real impact for the residents of Tennessee and around the world.
Through each campus, the Institute for Public Service (IPS) and the Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), UT has a presence in all 95 Tennessee counties.
The University enriches its communities with fine arts that bring the public to campuses. Faculty, staff and students share their skills through volunteer service and provide training, consulting and assistance to schools, businesses and civic organizations. Every year, thousands of adults and children are served by UT Health Science Center medical and dental clinics, and the College of Veterinary Medicine serves pets, livestock and zoo animals.
In fiscal year 2021, IPS assisted businesses in generating more than $1.2 billion in customer-reported economic impact for Tennessee. In the same period, IPS agencies received more than 69,530 requests for assistance and trained about 31,300 government employees, law enforcement officers and industry workers.
The UT Institute of Agriculture provides solutions across the state through UT Extension, UT AgResearch, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and the Herbert College of Agriculture.
In 2021, UT Extension provided information and education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, community and economic development, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H in all 95 counties. These professionals made more than 1.5 million contacts through group meetings and on-site visits, with another estimated 20 million-plus contacts made digitally—all adding up to an economic impact of more than $540 million. The College of Veterinary Medicine managed a caseload of more than 35,000 patients in 2017-2018, from small and large animals, to exotic, equine and farm animals. UT AgResearch recorded 903,000 contacts in fiscal 2020 through attendance at field days and digital engagements highlighting the latest in agricultural scientific advancements. The UT Gardens located in Knoxville, Crossville and Jackson hosted more than 100,000 visitors in 2021.
1. U.S. Dept of Energy – DOE National Laboratories (https://energy.gov/maps/doe-national-laboratories). Retrieved September 29, 2017
Updated October 2022