The two governing boards at Rutgers University on Monday approved absorbing most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in an expected but major step in an overhaul of New Jersey's higher education system.
Both the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees accepted the changes that were called for in a law signed by Gov. Chris Christie in August.
“Integration will finally give the people of New Jersey the comprehensive public research university that they deserve,” Ralph Izzo, chairman of the Rutgers University Board of Governors, said in a statement. “The new Rutgers will expand biomedical research across our state, enhance medical care for our citizens, and create new opportunities in the biotechnical and pharmaceutical industries.”
Proponents hope that having one school contain both scientific research and medical education will make Rutgers a better partner for the pharmaceutical industry, which is a key part of New Jersey's economy.
In the reorganization, hashed out by the Republican Christie and leaders of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature, Rutgers will take over most parts of UMDNJ, including a cancer institute and two medical schools.
Previous plans to realign New Jersey's universities have been proposed and studied but have never gotten close to becoming reality.
The most contentious part of the initial plan was that Glassboro-based Rowan University would get the Camden campus of Rutgers. But that was ultimately ditched. Instead, Rowan and Rutgers-Camden are collaborating on health-science research and teaching.
And Rowan, which opened the doors of its new medical school in Camden this year, gets research university status from the state. Rowan is also absorbing the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford from UMDNJ.
University Hospital in Newark, now part of UMDNJ, is to remain a teaching hospital, but will become a free-standing institution. Some employees there have worried that the change will cost them their jobs.
Rutgers and UMDNJ have already been working out the technical details of the change, which takes effect in July 2013.