The Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) system consists of 40 institutions with a combined annual enrollment of nearly 120,000 students, ranking it the largest system of public higher education in Tennessee. TBR's 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology offer classes in almost all of Tennessee's 95 counties.
The Tennessee Board of Regents was created in 1972 by the General Assembly as the governing body of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee. At that time, the member institutions of the system were the six state universities and ten community colleges formerly governed by the Tennessee Board of Education. In 1983, the General Assembly transferred the technical institutes and area vocational schools (now called Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology) to the Tennessee Board of Regents. In 2017, the six universities separated are now governed by local boards. The University of Tennessee is a separate system with its own Board of Trustees. The Board of Regents, UT Board of Trustees and the locally governed universities are coordinated by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
The composition of the Tennessee Board of Regents is set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated 49-8-201. The board consists of 19 members: 12 lay citizens appointed for six-year terms by the governor, with one each from the state's nine congressional districts and three grand divisions; one voting and one non-voting faculty member from among the system institutions appointed by the governor for a one-year term; one student from among the system institutions appointed by the governor for a one-year term ; and four ex-officio members--the Governor of Tennessee, the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, who is a non-voting member.
The Tennessee Board of Regents system is the primary vehicle for higher education access in Tennessee. Our vision is a Tennessee population and workforce with the knowledge and skills to be competitive in the world economy. The Regents system, both as a set of forty individual institutions and as a collaborating and integrated system of education, seeks to raise the education and skill levels in Tennessee through quality programs and services, efficiently delivered.
To address this mission, TBR operates two types of institutions:
Each year, the TBR system serves over 100,000 students in 90 of Tennessee’s 95 counties and credentials 22,000 people, making them job-ready and better prepared to enter or advance in the 21st-century workforce.
Because of its scope, both geographically and educationally, the TBR system is well situated to address the state’s need for a trained workforce and a better-educated population. The education attainment levels in Tennessee are currently substantially below the national average, making it difficult for Tennessee to develop and attract the kinds of well-paying jobs relevant to the nation’s knowledge-based economy. The lack of education attainment stands in the way of the state’s prosperity as well as that of its individual citizens.
The role of the TBR system office is to act on behalf of the board by directing and overseeing on a daily basis the operations of the TBR system. The chancellor is the chief executive of the system and is empowered to act on behalf of the board. The chancellor and her staff serve at the pleasure of the board and perform those duties prescribed by the board. As the board staff, they ensure implementation of board policies and directives, initiate and conduct studies, serve as a liaison between the institutions and other state offices, provide certain centralized services, and provide leadership in the management of the system.
The board's policies and practices reflect decentralized decision-making and operations. Standardized policies are established to ensure institutional accountability while maintaining campus prerogatives.
The board maintains a strong committee structure through which all policies and other significant considerations are deliberated. Board members serve on these major committees: Academic Policies and Programs, Finance and Business Operations, Personnel and Compensation, Audit, Workforce Development, and External Affairs. Additional committees are established on an ad hoc basis to address special concerns.
The board subscribes to a concept of strong presidencies in which the president is the chief executive officer of the institution with broadly delegated responsibilities for all facets of campus management and operations. The president serves at the pleasure of the board, reports to the board through the chancellor, and is the official medium of communication between the campus community and the chancellor.
The policies through which the board implements its statutory responsibility for governance and management of the system establish both standards for consistency among the institutions and defined parameters to promote institutional flexibility and discretion. To ensure appropriate participation in the consideration of proposed board policies and system-wide decisions, all such matters are reviewed by a structure of system sub-councils, the presidents as a council, the board staff, and a board committee prior to their consideration by the board. More detail about these sub-councils and other campus-based groups may be found in the Campus Liaison Groups section of the website. The policies and guidelines themselves also have their own section of the site.
The system office staff works in a highly collaborative, generally autonomous manner, which is essential given the relatively small staff to oversee such a large system. The senior staff meets weekly, and each individual office has periodic meetings of its own staff.