UMaine ascends to highest tier of national research universities

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February 3, 2022 

Maine’s research and innovation reputation takes a monumental step forward as the state’s public research university earns an R1 Carnegie Classification, UMaine joins the ranks of the nation’s top 146 doctoral research universities engaged in “very high research activity.”

Orono, Maine — The University of Maine has been designated an R1 university by the prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The R1 designation signifies “very high research activity” in recent years and it is the highest possible tier a doctoral research university can achieve in the Carnegie Classification. Updates are completed every three years

Only 146 (3.7%) of the nation’s 3,982 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the United States are classified as top-tier doctoral research universities.  

“The research enterprise at the University of Maine is a vital state economic and educational asset,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “The R1 designation is the world standard for research universities. With it, we will attract more talent, investment and innovation to Maine. Thanks to the dedication of our research faculty and staff at our flagship university, and the strategic leadership of President Ferrini-Mundy, Vice President for Research Kody Varahramyan, and their teams, Maine is becoming a global destination for discovery and innovation.”  

The goal of achieving R1 status was articulated in the UMS Research and Development Plan FY20-FY24 published in May 2019. UMaine President Ferrini-Mundy, lead author of the plan, reported that faculty and staff had begun meeting to address the steps that would lead to a top-tier research designation. Building on the work of these research colleagues and others, Ferrini-Mundy was able to present an investment and development plan for Carnegie R1 status by Fiscal Year 2024 at the Board of Trustees May 2020 meeting.  

“Recognition as a top-tier research university is a testament to how hard our faculty and staff work pursuing understanding and creating knowledge,” said Ferrini-Mundy, who is President of UMaine and its regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias, and UMS Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation. “We are honored to be an R1 university because of what it means for Maine and invite all communities, students, innovators and entrepreneurs to join us on our journey to define tomorrow.” 

“We also owe a great thanks to our supporters, partners and the people of Maine who invest their ideas, energy and dollars into our research mission,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “Increases in state and federal support for research projects and infrastructure have been critical in our advancement. Since 1998, the Maine Legislature has provided vital funding through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund. In addition, we thank Governor Mills, Senators Collins and King, and Congresspersons Pingree and Golden for their steadfast support for Maine and its public research university.”  

“I congratulate the University of Maine on this monumental achievement,” said Gov. Janet Mills. “This well-deserved designation reflects years of hard work by university staff, students and researchers that have improved the lives of people across Maine, and strengthened and diversified our economy. I have no doubt that this R1 designation will globalize Maine’s reputation as a topflight research institution and as a premier destination for innovation that will bring the best and brightest to our state.” 

“We commend the University of Maine on its well-deserved designation as one of the nation’s elite research universities, which recognizes the groundbreaking achievements and commitment to excellence by UMaine faculty, scientists, students and staff,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden. “As an R1 university, UMaine’s education community will continue to attract top talent, create new research opportunities and ultimately drive further innovations.”

The Road to R1 for Maine and Its Public Research University

UMaine’s research enterprise spans the entire state, including the newly launched UMaine Portland Gateway. And in the University of Maine System’s unified accreditation environment, faculty at other UMS universities have the opportunity to partner with UMaine researchers, allowing them to expand their own research along with the reach and impact of the flagship’s well-established research infrastructure.

Over the last five years, research and development expenditures at UMaine have grown 80.2% to an all-time high of $179.3 million for 2021. External funding in support of R&D increased 135% to $133.6 million, and UMaine has achieved record graduate and doctoral student enrollments. See UMaine’s 2021 Research Report online.

“The R1 designation affirms that UMaine has reached the highest Carnegie Classification that identifies top doctoral-granting national universities with very high research activity,” said Kody Varahramyan, UMaine Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. “This is also in recognition that at UMaine, we have been creating a modern 21st-century research university, with nationally and internationally recognized programs of global impact and local relevance that address the workforce needs and advance the social and economic development of Maine and beyond.”

UMaine Reacts to Its R1 Designation

“I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from UMaine, and I am now pursuing a Ph.D. in offshore wind. I am grateful for the opportunities working and studying at a world-class institution have provided for me and especially proud of the connections I’ve made with other researchers around the world. I hope to continue supporting the renewable energy economy in Maine and sharing these experiences with future students.” — Matt Fowler, Ph.D. student originally from Presque Isle, Maine and a research engineer at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center

“This achievement is a reflection of the efforts of our entire university community, years in the making. The dedication of our past and current students, faculty, staff and administrators to research excellence through the recruitment of outstanding faculty and staff, the development of excellent graduate programs, and a supportive environment and infrastructure for continued growth and success has led UMaine to be officially recognized as an R1 research institution.” — Melissa Maginnis, Associate Professor of Microbiology in UMaine’s Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences

“For the University of Maine to achieve an R1 classification is a clear and critically important recognition of the research quality, prominence and broad problem-solving capability of the researchers and the research support structure that we have in our university.” — Paul Mayewski, Professor and Director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine   

“This is an impressive accomplishment resulting from strategic leadership and visioning, and a strong collaboration and dedication of our UMaine community — administrators, faculty, researchers, students and partners. Being an R1 recognizes the talent, productivity, innovation, creativity and collaborative culture of our university.” — Sandra De Urioste-Stone, Assistant Vice President for Research, Associate Professor in UMaine’s School of Forest Resources

“This is a very proud moment for all of us in Maine, as it puts UMaine in the top 4% of research colleges and universities. The R1 designation recognizes the transformational green energy and materials research taking place at UMaine, including offshore wind energy, sustainable forest-derived materials, large-scale 3D printing technology for boats and housing, more durable and lightweight composites bridges now being exported from Maine. All such projects address some of our most pressing issues while driving economic development and providing hands-on, relevant learning experiences for our students. Joining this elite rank puts UMaine on the map as one of the nation’s great research universities.” — Habib Dagher, Executive Director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center

“Simply put, AIT Bridges would not exist without UMaine. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with the university for more than a decade to commercialize composite arch bridge systems and components developed at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, building our company in Brewer with a workforce that includes numerous UMaine engineers. The university is an essential innovation and talent partner and we’re thrilled to see their capabilities recognized by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.” — Brit Svoboda ‘76, chair and CEO of Advanced Infrastructure Technologies

About the Carnegie Classification®

The Carnegie Classification® has been the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education for the past four and a half decades. Starting in 1970, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education developed a classification of colleges and universities to support its program of research and policy analysis. Derived from empirical data on colleges and universities, the Carnegie Classification was originally published in 1973, and subsequently updated in 1976, 1987, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2018 and 2021 to reflect changes among colleges and universities. This framework has been widely used in the study of higher education, both as a way to represent and control for institutional differences, and also in the design of research studies to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students, or faculty.

Contact: Dan Demeritt,