Master Plan

The Master Plan for Higher Education in California, enacted as the Donahoe Higher Education Act in 1960, defines broadly the respective roles of the three segments of public higher education in California -- the University of California, the California State University System, and the Community Colleges.

The Master Plan assigned to the University major responsibilities in the following areas:

  • At the undergraduate level, the University is expected to offer a broad range of disciplines in the liberal arts and sciences.
  • The University was assigned "exclusive jurisdiction" over training in the professions of law, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine.
  • The University was granted "sole authority" in public education to award the doctorate, except that provision was made for joint doctorates with the State Universities in selected fields.
  • The University was designated as the primary State-supported agency for research.

The Master Plan is the result of a request by the State Legislature in 1959 to The Regents of the University and the State Board of Education to prepare a plan for the development of higher education in California to meet the needs created by an anticipated rapid growth in population. The Plan sought to assure appropriate educational opportunities at reasonable costs to all qualified California students and sought to guarantee essential expansion without wasteful duplication. The Plan called for coordination of the three segments of higher education and the establishment of a Coordinating Council for Higher Education. In 1974 that Council was replaced by the California Postsecondary Education Commission. The Commission's charge is " assure the effective utilization of public postsecondary education resources, thereby eliminating waste and unnecessary duplication, and to promote diversity, innovation, and responsiveness to student and societal needs through planning and coordination."

The Legislature stated at the inception of CPEC that the "educational policy recommendations of the Commission shall be a primary consideration in developing state policy and funding in higher education." All proposals for new academic programs in any of the three public segments of higher education must be submitted to the Commission for review and comment before the program can be established.

The Master Plan has been reviewed and updated periodically. A 1971-73 review was conducted by the Legislature's Joint Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education, and focused on four issues: access and educational opportunity; coordination and planning; governance; and diversity. A second review was done in 1985-89, first of the community colleges and then of all public postsecondary education in California. Two groups were involved: a Commission, composed of 5 segmental representatives, 10 appointees of the Governor and the Legislature, and a representative from CPEC, which developed 33 specific recommendations presented in a July 1987 report, The Master Plan Renewed: Unity, Equity, Quality, and Efficiency in California Postsecondary Education; and a Joint Legislative committee, which reviewed the Commission's work and issued a final report in March 1989, California Faces...California's Future: Education for Citizenship in a Multicultural Democracy. In general, the recommendations uphold and reaffirm:

  • the differential missions of the public segments of postsecondary education;
  • the pools from which the segments are to select their students;
  • the concepts of access and student choice, broadening access to include specifically social and economic equity as well as geographic access;
  • the certainty of transfer as a keystone of the Plan;
  • the importance of cooperation and coordination among the segments.

The review addressed, for the first time, the issue of quality in education, at all levels, and underscored the importance of a reasonable student-faculty ratio and of teacher preparation and curriculum planning.