Starting next month, North­eastern will under­take a year­long explo­ration and analysis of under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion, sparking a university-​​wide dis­cus­sion of the value of having a North­eastern bachelor’s degree.

As we go into this process, we need to ask our­selves, ‘What are the dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics of a North­eastern Uni­ver­sity grad­uate?’ ” said Bruce Ronkin, the vice provost for under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion, at yesterday’s Fac­ulty Senate meeting.

Ronkin said the university’s most entre­pre­neurial stu­dents fully ben­efit from the “North­eastern advan­tage” — which includes classes led by world-​​renowned scholars, co-​​op and study-​​abroad oppor­tu­ni­ties across the globe and oppor­tu­ni­ties for research and ser­vice learning. “But not all of our stu­dents are taking advan­tage of that, and that’s why I’m coming to you today,” Ronkin said.

The move comes as interest from prospec­tive stu­dents is at an all-​​time high. This year, for example, early action appli­ca­tions increased 14 per­cent, to more than 16,000 for 2,800 seats — an average of 5.7 appli­cants per seat in the 2012 freshman class.

I’m here today not because some­thing is broken — I’m here because we’ve done a good job,” Ronkin said. “As we attract better and better stu­dents who want more and more, we want to look closely at what we do so we can pro­vide the best oppor­tu­ni­ties for our stu­dents to take advan­tage of when they come to Northeastern.”

From Jan­uary through May, the col­leges will con­vene indi­vidual working groups, and Ronkin will con­vene cross-​​college working groups. The groups will also host out­side experts to address the campus com­mu­nity and meet with groups working to look at the unique chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties facing Northeastern.

The dis­cus­sions, Ronkin said, will start broadly, looking first at the university’s mis­sion and cur­riculum. “This is a chance to think about where we are going,” Ronkin said.

Throughout the summer, Ronkin will orga­nize the out­comes of the spring semester con­ver­sa­tions, posting them online for the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity to digest and dis­cuss. Next fall, he said, will be time “to turn those ideas into reality.”

Provost Stephen W. Director said the endeavor is an oppor­tu­nity for cre­ative, out-​​of-​​the-​​box thinking about under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion at Northeastern.

Lou Kruger, the Senate Agenda Com­mittee chair, said the Fac­ulty Senate is also eager to par­tic­i­pate in the process, which will occur in con­junc­tion with the drafting of a new Uni­ver­sity Master Plan.