This story has been updated.

The University of Texas at San Antonio received designation as a top-tier research institution, joining 10 other Texas universities that have achieved the prestigious classification.

UTSA announced Thursday it had earned the distinction of becoming a Research 1, or R1, university, the highest ranking bestowed by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions. It is the first university in San Antonio to reach this milestone.

The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education classifies institutions as R1 — having “very high research activity” — if they awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees and spent at least $5 million on all research activities, according to its website.

In the past five years, UTSA’s research expenditures have increased by 106%, from $68 million in 2017 to $140 million in 2021. Faculty also received more than 300 funding grants each year in that five-year span. At the same time, the university has awarded more doctoral degrees — 153 in 2020 — and enrollment in its 26 doctoral programs has risen by almost 20%, according to a press release.

President Taylor Eighmy said in a statement that the Carnegie R1 designation is a “historic waypoint” on UTSA’s trajectory to becoming one of the country’s “great public research universities.”

“It is one of the most prestigious research designations that a U.S. research university can attain. I am so proud of our faculty and staff; their extensive contributions made this possible,” Eighmy stated. “What is really unique is that UTSA is now one of about 20 universities nationally that are both Hispanic serving and Carnegie R1. I believe we represent the future of public research universities for our state and nation.”

UTSA joins a handful of other Texas universities designated as R1, including the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at El Paso, Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas. Baylor University also achieved the R1 classification this year.

The top-tier research classification represents years of strategic growth, including investments in faculty, recruitment of “high caliber” doctoral students and the attainment of federal funding opportunities, said Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA vice president for research, economic development and knowledge enterprise.

“We’ve been working as an institution to really move the needle on enhancing our overall research portfolio,” he said.

For students, the R1 designation means that they can work with the “brilliant minds” of UTSA faculty in various domains, such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, infectious disease, public health and education, Arulanandam said. Students also have the opportunity to work with the university’s many community partners and engage in collaborations with research organizations like UT Health San Antonio, Southwest Research Institute, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Brooke Army Medical Center and Joint Base Saint Antonio.

“We want to be an exemplar of student success,” Arulanandam said. “We want to provide those signature opportunities for students.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is another key partner that UTSA has worked with to strengthen its research portfolio. Arulanandam said the university works with the department in many areas of applied research, where students receive training that can lead them to careers in the corporate world after they graduate.

The R1 classification measures institutions’ research portfolios in three-year cycles, Arulanandam said. UTSA must maintain its research funding and the number of doctoral degrees it grants to keep the designation.

“It’s a waypoint of becoming an institution of societal impact and really being that living laboratory for the city of San Antonio and for the state of Texas to solve some of these complex challenges that we have ahead of us,” he said.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.