Handbook of Operating Procedures

Establishment and Review of Organized Research Units

Policy Number: 169


Organized research units 



Date Reviewed:
July 2015
Responsible Office:
Office of Academic and Research Affairs
Responsible Executive:
Executive Vice President for Academic & Research Affairs


The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston ("university") encourages collaborative relationships among faculty to enhance its mission and goals. To that end, the university enables programs, divisions, departments, schools, other organizational entities and the university itself to establish collaborative units for interdisciplinary activities that complement and/or enhance its missions of education, research, patient care, and/or public service. Such units are commonly referred to as institutes, university centers, or laboratories and may be established and operated by guidelines developed by the Executive Vice President for Academic and Research Affairs (EVPARA).  

Institutes, laboratories or centers that meet certain criteria specified by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System are termed Organized Research Units (ORUs) and must be established and operated according to Regents' Rules and RegulationsRule 40602.  Rule 40602 designates ORUs as units that:

  • are established to provide support for interdisciplinary research that complements the academic goals of departments of instruction and research and are typically referenced as institutes, laboratories, or centers, and
  • have anticipated annual budgets of at least $3,000,000, representing the sum of research grants and contracts managed through the unit’s operations as well as institutional and other funding.

[Note: An institute, center, or laboratory established to provide support for interdisciplinary research and/or other purposes, but with an anticipated budget of less than $3,000,000, is not an ORU and is not subject to the requirements in this policy. "Non ORU" institutes, centers, or laboratories may be established and operated upon the approval of the President according to the guidelines established by the EVPARA that include periodic review at the institutional level. Institutes, centers, or laboratories established to promote and/or enhance non-research activities may also be established as indicated in these guidelines.]

The primary function of an ORU is to support interdisciplinary research, but additional functions may include:

  • disseminating research results through conferences, meetings and other activities;
  • strengthening trainee education by providing training opportunities and access to facilities;
  • seeking extramural research funds; and
  • carrying out university and public service programs related to the ORU's research expertise.

The designation of an ORU under the aegis of the university will refer only to an organization devoted primarily to activities engaging faculty and colleagues in interdisciplinary research related to the mission of the university.

In all cases, an ORU is subject to all policies and procedures of the university and the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System and may be subject to reporting and auditing requirements.

Faculty with an appointment in an ORU will have an academic appointment in one or more of the schools.


ORUs at the university are units established for the primary purpose of supporting interdisciplinary research, have an anticipated annual budget of $3,000,000 or more, and carry one of the designations defined below:

Institute: A major unit that coordinates and promotes faculty, student, and postdoctoral research on a continuing basis over an area so wide that it extends across school or campus boundaries. The unit enhances and supports broad-based research efforts. The unit may also engage in public service activities stemming from its research program, within the limits of its stated objectives and its primary mission of facilitating interdisciplinary research. The President or designee will have responsibility for institutional oversight of an Institute.

University Center: A unit that furthers research in a designated field or a unit engaged primarily in providing research facilities, expertise and/or administrative support services to facilitate interdisciplinary research for or among programs, departments or other organizational units of the university. A University Center involves more than one school or unit of the university or multiple departments or operating units of a single school. A center in which substantially all participating faculty members are from the same academic department is a department or school center rather than an ORU.  The President or designee will have responsibility for institutional oversight of a University Center.

Laboratory: A non-departmental unit that establishes and maintains facilities for research in several departments, sometimes with the help of full-time research staff appointed in accordance with university policies. A laboratory in which substantially all participating faculty members are from the same academic department is a department laboratory rather than an ORU. The President or designee will have responsibility for institutional oversight of a Laboratory.


A. Establishment

Institutes, university centers, and laboratories designated as ORUs will be created upon approval of a proposal for establishment by:

  • The Deans (if applicable);
  • The EVPARA;
  • The Executive Council;
  • The President; and,
  • The University of Texas System Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.

Proposals for establishment should describe the purpose and benefits of the ORU to the university; the faculty members and other participants; research and other activity plans; space requirements and budget needs. Guidelines for proposals of institutes, university centers, and laboratories designated as ORUs can be found on the EVPARA's website which shall also maintain a list of all such ORUs.

B. Naming

Proposals to name an ORU designated as an institute, university center, or laboratory for an individual or non-university entity must comply with HOOP Policy 65 Naming Policy.

C. Advisory Committee or Council

Each ORU must be headed by a director and must have an advisory committee/council that assists the director in setting the unit's goals and may assist by critically evaluating the unit’s effectiveness on a continuing basis. The creation of an advisory committee/council must be approved by The University of Texas System Board of Regents in accordance with the Regent's Rules and RegulationsSeries 60302.

D. Review

1. Periodic Report

Each ORU will be required to submit an annual report to the President who will determine the format of the annual reports.

2. Six Year Review of ORUs

Each ORU shall be reviewed at least every six years by an independent external advisory committee appointed by the President, in consultation with the EVPARA and the ORU’s director. The committee shall review the ORU in accordance with the Regents' Rules and RegulationsSeries 40602, Section 6. The committee's report will be forwarded to the President, who, in consultation with others, will determine whether the ORU shall continue, be phased out or be discontinued. The President shall forward the recommendation and the reviewing committee's report to the Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.


ContactTelephoneEmail/Web Address
Office of Academic and Research Affairs 713-500-3082 https://www.uth.edu/academics/contact.htm