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Official Combination of Philadelphia University & Thomas Jefferson University Signals Disruption in a Stagnant Education Industry


New comprehensive university creates multi-faceted ecosystem of teaching and learning focused on innovative 21st-century professional education and real-world demands

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University today announced their official combination, effective July 1, 2017, creating a national comprehensive university designed to deliver high-impact education and value for students in medicine, science, architecture, design, fashion, textiles, health, business, engineering and more. In order to consummate the combination, notices were provided or consents obtained from approximately 30 accrediting agencies, including Middle States Commission of Higher Education, the Departments of Education of the United States of America and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the NCAA and the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. 

The name for the combined institution, which will be the fifth largest in the city of Philadelphia, is Thomas Jefferson University and will be referred to as Jefferson in common usage. The Honors Programs will be in the newly formed Philadelphia University Honors Institute. All existing academic programs and degrees from both Universities will continue and many will be expanded.

The new Jefferson creates a unique model focused on interprofessional and transdisciplinary approaches to learning supported by design and systems thinking, innovation, entrepreneurship, empathy, and the modes of thought central to the liberal arts and scientific inquiry. It provides a vibrant and expandable platform for professional education and the ability to prepare students for current and yet-to-be-imagined 21st-century professions.

In particular, the new Jefferson will build on Thomas Jefferson University’s and Philadelphia University’s proven approaches to aggressively add even more value for students through curricular innovations that include leading-edge programs in emerging professions; accelerated programs that enable students to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in a shorter time; valuable opportunities for scientific and applied research, and a new model for experiential learning and internship opportunities with some of the country’s top employers.

“Although the world is changing rapidly, higher education is stuck using old models to teach students how things used to be done,” said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. “We need to help students lead change, not react to it. We are creating a comprehensive university centered on what’s going to be obvious 10 or 20 years from now, but doing it today.

“A transformative model of education focuses on the skills of leadership, lifelong learning, empathy, communication and creativity to draw your own path to success. We will use this combination to ‘start over’ – building preeminence in experiential, professional education, research and discovery.”  

Official Combination of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University Signals Disruption in a Stagnant Education Industry

Read more about their innovative vision.

Both Philadelphia University and Jefferson staked an early claim in providing bold, innovative, transdisciplinary approaches to education over the past decade. Now, at a time when higher education is increasingly under fire for not providing sufficient return for students, the new Jefferson is re-defining the higher education value proposition through a multi-faceted approach to teaching and learning that is transdisciplinary, collaborative, active, connected to the real world and helps students to think and do: hallmarks of Philadelphia University’s Nexus Learning and Jefferson’s interprofessional education.

In addition, Jefferson is committed to providing students with these critical competencies considered essential to succeed in the workplace both today and in the future: to communicate and collaborate; identify and solve problems; to be creative, diligent and resilient; and to be lifelong learners.

Through its innovative approaches to teaching and learning, industry engagement model and unique academic opportunities like those included in the award-winning transdisciplinary Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce or through JeffDesign, a college-within-a-college design track that applies design thinking to healthcare professional training, Jefferson is setting new standards for higher education.

“The new Jefferson is a dynamic educational ecosystem where innovation, creativity and receptivity to change are the norm and artificial distinctions between practice and education blur,” said Stephen Spinelli, Jr., PhD, president of Philadelphia University, who will serve as chancellor of the combined university. “Education should be tailored to real-world demands and enable students to curate their degree programs and educational pathways to better prepare them as professionals. Jefferson is reimagining the future of work, the future of health and the future of education to deliver even greater return on investment to our students while also benefitting alumni, employers and society.”

In addition to nine colleges and three schools from both universities, the formation of the Philadelphia University Honors Institute and the Philadelphia University Design Institute will be key components of the combined university’s educational ecosystem. Jefferson will include campuses in Center City, East Falls, Montgomery County, Bucks County and Atlantic County; a growing online presence; numerous clinical sites; and an extensive global footprint with locations in Italy and Japan, study abroad sites and curricular and co-curricular partnerships and networks. Jefferson will be home to more than 7,800 students, 4,000 faculty members and 63,000 alumni.

“The university offers more than 160 undergraduate and graduate professional programs all with a grounding in the liberal arts,” said Mark Tykocinski, MD, University vice chancellor and provost, and dean of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College. “This union allows us to leverage our diverse academic programs to provide robust interprofessional and collaborative learning across each profession and discipline. We’re eliminating the program silos that are the norm in higher education in favor of creative connections between disciplines—because that’s where the greatest human advancements are made and what will best serve our students and society in the future.”

Official Combination of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University Signals Disruption in a Stagnant Education Industry

The synergies between Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University also enhance the combined university’s ability to meaningfully expand research and discovery in the spheres of basic, translational, clinical, health policy and applied research. Research faculty already have begun collaborating to create joint grant applications to federal agencies, industry and foundations.  

Philadelphia University’s mascot, Phil the Ram, will be the Jefferson mascot, and the 17 intercollegiate athletics teams will be known as the Jefferson Rams. Jefferson will compete in the NCAA Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and boasts one of the winningest NCAA basketball coaching duos in the country – Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall-of-Famer and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Herb Magee (1,053 wins) and Women’s Head Basketball Coach Tom Shirley (722 wins).

In considering the name for the combined university, a comprehensive study was conducted that included more than 200 personal interviews and a quantitative survey of 3,100 faculty, staff, alumni, current and prospective students, trustees and hiring managers. The research took into account the important contributions of both universities to the new brand, including Philadelphia University’s 133-year reputation for excellence in design, architecture, textiles, engineering, fashion and business, and the nearly 200-year-old Thomas Jefferson University, with world-renowned expertise in the health sciences, research and clinical care.

The Jefferson Academic Board of the University board will include an equal number of representatives from Thomas Jefferson and Philadelphia universities. This committee will oversee the combined university and make recommendations to the board to drive growth and academic excellence at the new Jefferson. Eileen Martinson, current Philadelphia University board chair and alumna, and Richard Gozon, former Thomas Jefferson University chair, will co-chair the academic board. The University board will add two representatives from Philadelphia University, including Martinson. 

About Philadelphia University

Philadelphia University, founded in 1884, is a private university with 3,750 students enrolled in more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs. As the model for professional university education, the University, through its award-winning Nexus Learning approach, prepares students to be leaders in their professions in an active, collaborative and real-world learning environment infused with the liberal arts.

With internationally and nationally recognized programs in physician assistant studies, architecture, fashion, graphic design, strategic leadership and midwifery, and opportunities for industry partnerships and internships with top companies, Philadelphia University graduates consistently achieve a 95 percent job success and graduate school placement rate.  

Philadelphia University includes the innovative Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce; the College of Architecture and the Built Environment; the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts; the School of Continuing and Professional Education; and PhilaU Online.

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About Jefferson

Founded in 1824, Thomas Jefferson University includes the Sidney Kimmel Medical College (formerly known as Jefferson Medical College) and the Colleges of Biomedical Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing, Pharmacy and Population Health. Its nationally recognized faculty, who lead a number of programs boasting U.S. News & World Report recognition, educate more than 4,000 students and set the highest standards of healthcare education to prepare them to lead change and succeed throughout their careers.

Jefferson Health, the University’s clinical arm which includes Abington Health and Aria Health, provides a range of primary and complex, highly specialized care through nine hospitals (three Magnet®-designated for nursing excellence), 35 outpatient and urgent care locations, and NCI-designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Thomas Jefferson University Hospital among the best in the nation in 11 specialties, second in the Philadelphia metro area and third in Pennsylvania for the quality of care we provide.

Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health employ more than 23,000 staff who provide exceptional patient care, deliver breakthrough research and educate the professionals of tomorrow.

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Media Contacts:

Gail Benner