The University of Minnesota has hired an external firm to analyze its workforce and report back to the Legislature.

Sibson Consulting, based in New York, will study the "spans and layers" of the university's structure, drilling into how many administrators supervise how many employees. The university will pay then $48,000 for the work, which includes $8,000 for travel and other expenses, according to the contract.

"The analysis will answer the question: Does the university have the appropriate number of organizational levels and do managers at various levels oversee the proper number of people?" U President Eric Kaler told the Board of Regents on Friday.

The consultants' report will include "a set of recommendations ... including action steps and timelines," the contract says.

State Senate leaders requested the report after a Wall Street Journal article singled out the University of Minnesota, saying that the school had gone "on a spending spree over the past decade," inflating its ranks of administrators. Kaler has called parts of that article inaccurate but also stressed that he's not satisfied with the status quo.

The report to lawmakers is due mid-March.

U leaders chose an outside firm for speed, Kaler said, as well as "the external validation that a firm like Sibson will provide to the results." The university has worked with the human resources consulting firm before, on a deep look at its employee classifications, which the university is revising to better describe what employees do.