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UMass political science - why is it ranked so low?


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Some questions here; I'm hoping others in the community could help me out.

 

I've got offers from a few different schools so far, and I'm still waiting to hear back from others. However, I'm interested in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I really like the looks of it: the department has a lot of faculty that I'd be excited to work with, and it seems like a pretty large department. There looks like there is a lot of work being done there, and my professors at my current school actually know some UMass faculty that they speak highly of. My question: why does the university's political science program rank so low? I've heard from different sources that the university recently hired something like 15 professors. Is it likely that the department was small before but now resources are being invested, likely pushing up the rank in the future?

 

I have some similar questions about another school that's offered funding (most likely), the University of Delaware. I like this interdisciplinary "global governance" them they have, as it fits well with what I'm looking to research. Also I would really like to work with a couple of professors there.

 

What really do the low rankings mean? I know that they are related to job prospects in the future, but can a hard working student offset that by being published, working on enough projects, etc.?

 

Some of the schools to which I've applied are much more highly ranked, but I'd be less excited to go to them because they don't seem to be as much of a fit.

 
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Some questions here; I'm hoping others in the community could help me out.

 

I've got offers from a few different schools so far, and I'm still waiting to hear back from others. However, I'm interested in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I really like the looks of it: the department has a lot of faculty that I'd be excited to work with, and it seems like a pretty large department. There looks like there is a lot of work being done there, and my professors at my current school actually know some UMass faculty that they speak highly of. My question: why does the university's political science program rank so low? I've heard from different sources that the university recently hired something like 15 professors. Is it likely that the department was small before but now resources are being invested, likely pushing up the rank in the future?

 

I have some similar questions about another school that's offered funding (most likely), the University of Delaware. I like this interdisciplinary "global governance" them they have, as it fits well with what I'm looking to research. Also I would really like to work with a couple of professors there.

 

What really do the low rankings mean? I know that they are related to job prospects in the future, but can a hard working student offset that by being published, working on enough projects, etc.?

 

Some of the schools to which I've applied are much more highly ranked, but I'd be less excited to go to them because they don't seem to be as much of a fit.

 

 Hey I understand your concern. But from what I learnt from other people who have already attended PhD programs for several years, and throughout the application process, the fact that some department ranked really low on the chart doesn't indicate that it is totally a worthless department. I have no idea about the ranking methodology but I have never been a big fan of those ranking. It really depends on what you want to specialize within your major field because some low-ranking program may have a leading specialist in a particular area you want to focus on. The whole department as a whole may not be as strong, but one or two professors are especially prominent in the field. I have encountered many schools like this during my application process and I'm happy to apply there not because of its ranking, but because of a specific professor I wish to work with in the future. 

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The methodology US News uses for their grad school rankings is that they send out emails to lots of faculty across the country asking them to rate programs at all the universities they can based upon what their impression of the program is. (Ref: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2012/03/12/methodology-graduate-social-sciences-and-humanities-rankings ) That's as detailed as their analysis gets.

 

So, essentially those rankings are based solely on perceived reputation by professors at rival institutions. 

 

University rankings are a witches brew of differently-weighed factors - everything from student satisfaction to how many papers are published per faculty member per year. But of course students saying they are "very satisfied" with the program doesn't mean they're able to find jobs later, and is a faculty member who publishes 5 papers per year in crappy journals really more productive at research than a professor who successfully publishes one or two in high-impact journals?  You get the picture.

 

If the UMass Political Science program is undergoing a reinvention then it would take some time for the program metrics to improve (new faculty hires now will be affecting the employment prospects of grad students coming out of the program in 5-10 years time, etc) and for fusty academics elsewhere to realise that the program is improved. 

 

If the PhD program looks good to you "in the flesh" as it were, I say go for it!

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Some questions here; I'm hoping others in the community could help me out.

 

I've got offers from a few different schools so far, and I'm still waiting to hear back from others. However, I'm interested in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I really like the looks of it: the department has a lot of faculty that I'd be excited to work with, and it seems like a pretty large department. There looks like there is a lot of work being done there, and my professors at my current school actually know some UMass faculty that they speak highly of. My question: why does the university's political science program rank so low? I've heard from different sources that the university recently hired something like 15 professors. Is it likely that the department was small before but now resources are being invested, likely pushing up the rank in the future?

 

I have some similar questions about another school that's offered funding (most likely), the University of Delaware. I like this interdisciplinary "global governance" them they have, as it fits well with what I'm looking to research. Also I would really like to work with a couple of professors there.

 

What really do the low rankings mean? I know that they are related to job prospects in the future, but can a hard working student offset that by being published, working on enough projects, etc.?

 

Some of the schools to which I've applied are much more highly ranked, but I'd be less excited to go to them because they don't seem to be as much of a fit.

 

Potentially.  If they've recently expanded the department, it is probably on the ascent.  Take a look at these new profs.  If their work really appeals to you and/or they seem like killer researchers, I'd say go for it.  By the time you graduate, some others/outsiders will have caught on.  I joined a department like that.  My advisor came to my school (one of many recent hires) as a tenured prof. from a top 10 school in both my field and subfield.  I fell in love with the school and once I arrived, had her on my short list of "potential advisors".  Now, I'm as happy as a clam.  I'm doing great research under an amazing advisor at a school that stood out as an absolute best fit from day one.  5-7 years is a long time.  It's a long time for outsiders/"ranking ppl" to catch wind of what's happening in your department AND, more importantly, is a long time to be in a department that you see isn't a best fit before you start.  Best fit+growth= gamble I've taken and would take again.  Now, the unranked placed (U Del)...eh, I'd be a little more cautious.  I didn't apply to any unranked places.  I always worry that there might be something(s) systemically wrong with a department that is unranked (maybe some things that I, as an applicant, am not well-versed enough to see???).  I take risks, but not ones that huge.   

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I can't speak precisely to the US case, since I know there's a greater range of quality in programs than up here, but I'd say:

 

1) that your excitement about the faculty and program at UMass is very important - you're going to spending years of your life there,

 

2) look at the program's placement record - if you can see yourself working at such places then it shouldn't be an obstacle (though you have to be realistic about getting that tenured prof job at Harvard - read this: http://www.educationnews.org/uncategorized/in-political-science-11-schools-generate-50-of-researchers/)

 

3) As St Andrews Lynx said, university rankings are extremely dubious, which is very unfortunate considering the outsized role they play in everything from admissions to the job market.  

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Some questions here; I'm hoping others in the community could help me out.

 

I've got offers from a few different schools so far, and I'm still waiting to hear back from others. However, I'm interested in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I really like the looks of it: the department has a lot of faculty that I'd be excited to work with, and it seems like a pretty large department. There looks like there is a lot of work being done there, and my professors at my current school actually know some UMass faculty that they speak highly of. My question: why does the university's political science program rank so low? I've heard from different sources that the university recently hired something like 15 professors. Is it likely that the department was small before but now resources are being invested, likely pushing up the rank in the future?

 

I have some similar questions about another school that's offered funding (most likely), the University of Delaware. I like this interdisciplinary "global governance" them they have, as it fits well with what I'm looking to research. Also I would really like to work with a couple of professors there.

 

What really do the low rankings mean? I know that they are related to job prospects in the future, but can a hard working student offset that by being published, working on enough projects, etc.?

 

Some of the schools to which I've applied are much more highly ranked, but I'd be less excited to go to them because they don't seem to be as much of a fit.

 

 

I am literally wondering the same thing. UMass seems like the best fit of the schools I have so far been accepted, yet it's low rank has troubled me. Much thanks to all the responses.. I'll be happy to take rankings with a grain of salt.

 

If anyone has thoughts on UMass specifically, and can confirm/speculate if its actually on the rise or if they have heard good or not so good things, that would be mighty helpful!

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After this discussion, and after some discussion with my professors at my undergrad institution, I'm definitely leaning heavily toward UMass. My guess is that the department's ranking will be higher after five years, when the full effect of all the new hires is felt.

 
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