Meeting the Challenge

A spotlight on research growth since the launch of Illuminate

December 12, 2023

At the heart of any successful strategic plan is a bold challenge — one compelling enough to encourage the multitudes to not only dream, but to undertake the behind-the-scenes efforts that incrementally advance those goals. The foundation for meeting that challenge is hard work, focused and consistent, well after the initial spark of excitement subsides.

From this vantage point, we know Illuminate met and exceeded those tests. On the research front, that success is embodied in new faculty, growing research impact and infrastructure and, of course, R1 achievement.

“Through top-tier research, scholarship and external funding support, R1 universities — that now include Baylor University — bring their voice to bear in addressing our world’s most significant challenges,” President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said shortly after achieving R1. “This has been a campus-wide effort from the Board of Regents all the way through our faculty and staff and students, and is a recognition of the great work they are doing.”

That campus-wide effort took place away from the spotlight, and the successes of recent years are a testament to the hard work of faculty and staff, deans and managers, hiring committees and fundraisers who met the moment in thousands of little moments along the way. It’s about far more than numbers, but these metrics — which helped lead to R1 attainment and continue Baylor’s pursuit of preeminence as a Christian research university — are a testament to a season of campus-wide diligence.


Research expenditures have long been an important benchmark used by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning to measure research activity. This includes funds from both external sources, like grants or contracts, and institutional investment in research. Beginning in 2025, research expenditures will take on added importance as they will become one of only two metrics to determine R1 standing (when universities will need $50 million in expenditures as one qualifying metric). Baylor has grown from just under $32 million in expenditures when Illuminate began to over $82 million in 2023. This positions the University to focus on the pursuit of significant research goals far beyond minimum R1 standards.

Chart showing Research expenditures


Research doctorates will remain the other of the two determining factors for R1 recognition when guidelines change in 2025. Universities will need at least 70 doctorates awarded to qualify for R1 status. Like Baylor’s numbers in research expenditures, the work taking place throughout the Graduate School and in departments across campus elevates Baylor far beyond this metric. Focused attention on recruitment and retention of excellent graduate students, along with the development of new programs, have helped Baylor more than double the number of doctorates awarded since 2018.

Chart showing research doctorates awarded


Baylor faculty are competing for larger grants and winning them. The average size of a Baylor grant proposal has increased by more than $200,000 since 2018, which amplifies the ability of our faculty to pursue significant research projects that address key global challenges.

Chart showing average grant size


Baylor faculty have raised the bar in the attainment of major grant awards. The University enjoyed consistent growth in this area through 2022, when the Global Flourishing Study became the largest-funded project in school history at $26.2 million. Even without that superlative, 2023’s total of $40.7 million continues a pattern of growth heading into 2024.

Chart showing total research awards


Endowed chairs are some of the most coveted positions in higher education, and Baylor’s focus on growing these positions to attract outstanding researchers and scholars to the University has resulted in the establishment of 34 new endowed chair positions, which contribute to the more than 40 endowed facutly positions established since the start of Illuminate. Many of these positions were generously funded by the Baylor Family through Give Light.

Baylor will announce its next strategic plan in Spring 2024. As it pursues and lives out that plan, Baylor will set even higher goals and continue boldly toward the vision of preeminence as a Christian research university — all thanks to the hard work that made Illuminate a milestone era in the life of the institution.

“We’ve had such great success with Illuminate and really built a great foundation on which to develop a new strategic plan,” Livingstone said.  “Because we’ve had such good success, we’re probably about a year ahead of schedule from where we thought we would be, and I think that’s just a tribute to the Baylor community and all the support that we’ve received.”