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Story Research

Seven CSUs Hold Prestigious Research Designation

Alex Beall

The R2 Classification of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education denotes doctoral universities with high levels of research activity.

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Pho​to courtesy San Francisco State


The Doctoral University: High Research Activity, or R2, classification, of the prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education recognizes universities that award doctoral degrees for conducting high levels of research. Currently, seven CSUs hold this status: East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Francisco.

“Earning the R2 Classification is a point of pride for our CSU campuses," says Ganesh Raman, CSU assistant vice chancellor for Research. “Having high-level research at the CSU gives students unique opportunities for experiential, hands-on learning that will prepare them for graduate education and their future careers. In addition, the classification helps universities attract and retain high-quality faculty as they are able to continue their professional scholarship while training students in the research process."

To achieve the classification, universities must award at least 20 doctoral degrees, as reported to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, and have at least $5 million in total research expenditures, as reported through the National Science Foundation's Higher Education Research & Development Survey. Universities that receive the designation are also considered national universities rather than regional universities in college rankings.

San Diego State first earned the designation in 2007 and San Francisco​ State in 2016. East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach and San Bernardino earned the status for the first time during the most recent update in 2022.

The Cal State San Bernardino College of Education, which houses the university's only doctoral program, helped elevate CSUSB to R2 status that year.

“The new designation as an R2 reflects the dedication and determination of our faculty, staff and administrators to develop and offer programs and research opportunities to benefit and advance our students as they pursue their educational goals and dreams, and ultimately help them advance in their careers," CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales said.

A growth in research activities related to education, science and health and human services catapulted Cal State East Bay to the R2 level in 2022.

“The recognition as a doctoral high-​research institution validates how the university has an essential role in the East Bay, California and beyond," CSUEB President Cathy Sandeen said. “The direct impact of the research activity conducted by our faculty and students provides meaningful solutions toward a more healthy and vibrant region. This Carnegie Classification is a proud moment for Cal State East Bay."

For Fresno State, obtaining the classification involved awarding 76 doctoral degrees and spending almost $35 million on research expenditures during the 2020-2021 academic year. Subsequently, the university awarded 73 doctoral degrees during the 2021-2022 academic year and 66 during the 2022-2023 academic year.

“The R2 designation recognizes the hard work of our faculty, staff and administrators and their grant writing, submission and research award activity on our campus," said Joy Goto, interim dean of the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at Fresno State. “Our research activities also represent many grants and contracts that advance our scholarly and creative work with our community, region and international collaborations."

To receive the designation for the first time, Cal State Fullerton awarded 67 doctoral degrees during the 2020-2021 academic year and had research and development expenditures of $5.9 million in 2020. The university's research expenditures increased to $9 million by 2021. CSUF since awarded 80 doctoral degrees during the 2021-2022 academic year and 83 during the 2022-2023 academic year.

“Cal State Fullerton's designation as an R2 university signifies our commitment to research excellence and our abundant opportunities for students and faculty to engage in cutting-edge scholarship," CSUF President Sylvia Alva said. “The discovery that comes from scholarship can have far-reaching benefits for both the university community and society at large."

Finally, Cal State Long Beach was also elevated to R2 status that year. It awarded 49 doctoral degrees during the 2020-2021 academic year, 54 during the 2021-2022 academic year and 55 during the 2022-2023 academic year.

“Beach faculty members have created opportunities for professional advancement through their contributions to our professional doctoral programs," CSULB President Jane Close Conoley said. “Graduates of these programs assumed influential leadership roles in health care, education and engineering. These doctoral programs fill a critical need in California for professionals prepared at the highest level."

During the 2022-2023 academic year, SDSU awarded 160 doctoral degrees, and SF State awarded 29 doctoral degrees.

In 2022, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Council on Education partnered together to reenvision the classification system, which was originally developed by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education in 1973 to facilitate research on institutions of higher education.

The next iteration of Carnegie Classifications will be released in 2025, with major changes coming to both its R1 and R2 classifications. R1 will now be labeled “Doctoral University: Very High Research Spending and Doctorate Production," rather than “Doctoral University: Very High Research Activity," and will require $50 million in total research expenditures and 70 research doctorates awarded. R2 will be renamed “Doctoral University: High Research Spending and Doctorate Production," but will retain the same requirements.


Learn more about research at the CSU.