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University of Florida President Bernie Machen announced today his plans to end his tenure next year, saying he expects to continue to lead the university until its governing board completes a search for his successor.

“I will have served as president for almost 10 years, and I have been fortunate to work with many exceptionally smart and dedicated faculty, staff and students,” Machen wrote in a letter to the UF community. “Amid a very difficult period for higher education, we have built a stronger, more dynamic, more forward-thinking university.”

Machen, 68, made his announcement at the UF Board of Trustees meeting in Gainesville. Chairman David Brown said the board would begin a search for the next president this summer, with the goal of finding Machen’s successor in 2013.

Machen took office as UF’s 11th president Jan. 4, 2004. He plans to remain at the university as a professor after he leaves office.

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Machen joined UF from Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City, where he served for six years as president of the University of Utah. Prior to that, he was provost of the University of Michigan and dean and associate dean of dentistry at Michigan and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, respectively.

In the current economic climate, perhaps Machen’s best achievement was to make the university system more financially independent. He led Florida’s universities in advocating the Florida Legislature for more control over tuition, winning the ability to seek 15% annual tuition hikes until tuition reaches the national average. UF has offset the loss of one-third of its state dollars over the past six years, blunting $229 million in losses with $140 million in gains from tuition (including a proposed 9% increase next school year.)

The tuition increases did not result in students turning away from the prospect of becoming a Gator. UF’s graduate enrollment has grown during Machen’s tenure. Master’s enrollment increased 28%, from 5,663 students in 2004 to 7,228 students last year. Doctoral student numbers rose 8.5%, from 4,426 to 4,803.

Undergraduate student applications also rose, topping 29,000 for the 2012-13 class. The student-faculty ratio dropped from 22.7 to 1 in 2004 to 20.5 to 1 in 2011 despite the $229 million in state budget cuts.

–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets