The consortium also fosters collaboration on a larger scale, such as a major initiative launched last year to look at head injuries in sports. More than 50 researchers at Big Ten schools have teamed up with Ivy League colleagues to study how to prevent and treat such injuries.

Loh said he was eager for Maryland engineers, who are working to design a better helmet, to join the project.

Phillip T. Evers, a supply chain management professor in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, said that he felt that most leaders in his field were at Big Ten schools.

"In my discipline, many of the top supply chain schools are Big Ten schools," Evers said. "Within the business school, a lot of what we consider our peers are the Big Ten schools, with the emphasis on research and undergraduate and graduate education."

Evers said that Maryland has more in common with the Big Ten schools than the ACC members, which include a broader mix of schools, including more private institutions like Duke University and Boston College.

The Big Ten consortium also allows members to share resources. Through a partnership with Google, the schools are scanning the books in their libraries and sharing them with the other universities, Allen said. So far, more than 6 million books have been entered into the electronic archive.

"We could never do this with Google on our own because the cost would be prohibitive," Loh said. "The only way you can do it is if you do it as part of a consortium."

The consortium also has seized on the growing popularity of online courses, allowing students at one campus to take Internet-based courses offered elsewhere. This, Loh said, will enable Maryland to broaden its offerings without increasing costs.

One of the most exciting changes for undergraduates will be the expansion of study-abroad opportunities. Maryland students will be eligible to enroll in about 1,700 international programs offered by consortium members, Allen said.

"On a student level, the study abroad is going to be great," said Samantha Zwerling, a junior environmental science and policy major and College Park's undergraduate student body president. "We already have an extensive study-abroad program, but this will allow us to collaborate with other students when studying abroad."

Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said Big Ten schools benefit not only from the network of shared services and cooperation between leaders but from competition within the conference.

"The schools tend to measure themselves against the others and that creates constant improvement," he said.

The schools also team up on lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill — Loh noted that many powerful legislators hail from Big Ten states — and benefit from bulk purchasing deals on supplies.

The consortium schools, which include more than 300,000 undergraduates and 100,000 graduate students, make up a sort of "super university," Loh said.

"The whole is really larger than the sum of the parts," he said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Childs Walker and Chris Korman contributed to this article.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts