Higher education year in review: UF, FSU set research spending records; USF, UM join AAU

by | Jan 2, 2024



Florida’s top universities, including UF and FSU, achieved new research expenditure records in 2023, while USF and UM were invited to join the prestigious Association of American Universities.


2023 marked a cornerstone year for several of Florida’s top universities, with the University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU) setting new research expenditure records, while the University of South Florida (USF) and the University of Miami (UM) were invited to join the Association of American Universities, a leading academic organization.

Per university communications, UF reported a 15 percent increase in research spending for Fiscal Year 2023, totaling $1.25 billion. The figure was largely driven by $530 million in spending on projects funded by the federal government and nearly $200 million in state and local government investments, both of which are 13 percent increases compared to the year prior.

UF also exceeded $1 billion in external awards for the first time in its history, comprised of contributions from the federal government ($792 million), state and local governments ($77 million), private foundations ($98 million), and industry partners ($61 million).

A substantial collective portion of UF’s research spending is concentrated within its six UF Health colleges. The College of Medicine utilized the highest level of spending with $378 million, followed by the College of Public Health & Health Professions ($34.9 million), the College of Pharmacy ($34.8 million), the College of Veterinary Medicine ($31.3 million), the College of Dentistry ($18.7 million), and the College of Nursing ($5 million).

The current Fiscal Year also marked the first full year of integration of the Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology, contributing a further $97.6 million in research spending. UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences further accounted for a considerable portion of total research spending, with more than $300 million, while the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering conducted $148.4 million in research.

Broadly speaking, UF accounts for approximately 40 percent of the State University System’s $2.3 billion in annual research spending.

North of Gainesville, in Tallahassee, FSU posted $400 million in expenditures, which represents a $75 million spike compared to two years prior.

“This is incredible progress that the university has made, and it’s the faculty,” FSU President Richard McCullough said during his ‘State of the University’ speech in November.

McCullough also told faculty members that FSU’s expenditure goal for next year has been revised to $500 million following 2023’s numbers and that the university would continue to build its research infrastructure to lend support to this objective.  

“Our research mission is incredibly important as we define and make a difference,” he said. “Research changes the world. Research drives economies and changes the way we live.”  

As FSU bolsters its internal research ambitions, outside entities have entered the fold, including the Triumph Gulf Coast Board, which in November greenlit the funding for a $98.4 million project to develop aerospace and manufacturing facilities in FSU’s campus in Panama City.

FSU will contribute $65 million over the next 10 years towards the project and aims to secure more than $230 million in contract and grant work. Economic analysts forecast that the project will generate $10 in economic activity for every $1 spent.

Beyond the state’s flagship institutions, USF and UM were both invited to join the AAU this year, a prestigious academic organization composed of leading research universities across the United States and Canada.

Membership in the AAU, which is regarded as the highest academic distinction in higher education, includes institutions like Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Stanford. To become a member, universities must fulfill specific criteria, including a strong emphasis on research. This involves a proven record of obtaining external research grants, publishing in reputable journals, and making valuable contributions to the scientific community.

Academic reputation also plays a role in admittance, with member institutions being recognized for their overall excellence in higher education. Universities must additionally possess ample institutional resources such as faculty, well-equipped research facilities, high-end libraries, and financial stability.

“There are special moments in the life of a university that not only reward our hard work but, more importantly, reaffirm our strategic vision and time-honored mission,” said UM President Julio Frenk.

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