Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

National Research Council releases long-awaited assessment

The National Research Council on Tuesday released a long-awaited assessment of Ph.D. programs in the United States. The NRC created this survey to provide a more comprehensive assessment of doctoral programs than popular ranking systems currently available.


More information

Click here for the full Natonal Research Council report report on doctoral programs.

The methodology used by the NRC has changed dramatically since the last survey in 1995. That study was purely reputational; the new study includes both a reputational component and a set of indicators about faculty research and student outcomes.

There is no overall rank assigned to programs. Instead, a range of rankings is reported for each individual program, and five sets of rankings are provided for each of the Ph.D. programs included in the study. Two overall rankings are calculated in two different ways from 20 variables, and three more focused rankings are provided for faculty research activity, student outcomes and diversity.

“While the data elements from the survey are very helpful for a program’s own analysis, the NRC’s complex methodology and report show us that a single ranking cannot be achieved with any certainty,” says Janet Weiss, dean of the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

The data used for this assessment are a snapshot of the 2005-06 academic year. Sixty-eight university Ph.D. programs were covered. Since the time the data were collected, a significant number of U-M faculty and important elements of the university’s graduate programs have changed. 

Weiss cautioned that it will take time to do a careful review of the complex data, and added that a simple comparison of the 2010 survey with the 1995 survey is not possible.

“It’s important to remember that these rankings using the NRC methodology are only one measure of success among many and cannot account for the full range of strengths and approaches in graduate education. Faculty and students choose U-M for many reasons and they value a variety of program qualities,” says Weiss.