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US News Rankings for Specific Disciplines


bolani

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I was appalled when I read this today. My friend told me about US News Ranking methodology a couple of weeks ago, for specific grad disciplines, and I didn't believe him.

Basically, they just poll a bunch of department heads in that field and average the score.

To me, that doesn't seem very well thought out at all, considering how much weight people tend to put on these rankings.

Here is what it says (from US News Website)

Specialty Rankings: These rankings are based solely on assessments by department heads in each specialty area. Department heads in their specialty area rated the other schools that offered a doctoral degree in the specialty on a 5-point scale. Those schools with the highest average scores appear here. Names of department heads and the names of their respective engineering schools that grant a doctoral degree in that specific area came from the American Society for Engineering Education.

Specialty rankings were out of 55 schools with aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering; 89 schools with bioengineering/biomedical engineering; 125 with chemical engineering; 143 with civil engineering; 142 with computer engineering; 170 with electrical/electronic/communications engineering; 94 with environmental/environmental health engineering; 73 with industrial manufacturing engineering; 90 with materials engineering; 164 with mechanical engineering; 25 with nuclear engineering; 26 with petroleum engineering.

Link: ...scroll to the bottom. http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/best-graduate-schools/2009/04/22/engineering-program-rankings-methodology.html?s_cid=related-links:TOP

What do you guys think of that? It makes me think that maybe this helps answer the question "how important are the rankings, other than to people applying or people who go to those 'top' schools?"

If any rankings should be looked at and considered in depth, maybe it should be overall engineering college rankings for grad school? At least they weight different factors...

Thoughts?

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I was appalled when I read this today. My friend told me about US News Ranking methodology a couple of weeks ago, for specific grad disciplines, and I didn't believe him.

Basically, they just poll a bunch of department heads in that field and average the score.

To me, that doesn't seem very well thought out at all, considering how much weight people tend to put on these rankings.

Here is what it says (from US News Website)

Specialty Rankings: These rankings are based solely on assessments by department heads in each specialty area. Department heads in their specialty area rated the other schools that offered a doctoral degree in the specialty on a 5-point scale. Those schools with the highest average scores appear here. Names of department heads and the names of their respective engineering schools that grant a doctoral degree in that specific area came from the American Society for Engineering Education.

Specialty rankings were out of 55 schools with aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering; 89 schools with bioengineering/biomedical engineering; 125 with chemical engineering; 143 with civil engineering; 142 with computer engineering; 170 with electrical/electronic/communications engineering; 94 with environmental/environmental health engineering; 73 with industrial manufacturing engineering; 90 with materials engineering; 164 with mechanical engineering; 25 with nuclear engineering; 26 with petroleum engineering.

Link: ...scroll to the bottom. http://www.usnews.co...lated-links:TOP

What do you guys think of that? It makes me think that maybe this helps answer the question "how important are the rankings, other than to people applying or people who go to those 'top' schools?"

If any rankings should be looked at and considered in depth, maybe it should be overall engineering college rankings for grad school? At least they weight different factors...

Thoughts?

My advisor was actually one of the people involved in the US News rankings for CS theory. I discussed it with him while I was short-listing universities.

Here is how they do it --

The part about asking heads of other places to rank universities is just one of the metrics involved.

They also take into consideration other factors such as PhDs graduated, funding available, number of publications, new faculty hired, citations received, etc.

So it is pretty well done.

However, here is a little tip he gave me:

Looking at the latest rankings alone is pretty useless, look at the rankings of the last 3-4 years at least to figure out trends of which depts are moving upwards and which are on a slide down (also what you want is for the dept you end up at to be ranked high in 4-5 years when you graduate -- meaning it doesn't have to be a top 10 right now, but has the potential to be there soon).

Of course all this comes only after short listing places that have people you want to work with.

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The only remotely useful aspect of these rankings is that they let you see what people in academia consider to be prestigious and well-respected programs. This, whether you like it or not, has a big impact on your job search.

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From a methodological standpoint, the specific field rankings are poorly collected and represented. For the sciences, they simply reflect how other programs view each other. All of the specialized rankings, beyond the general categories, are based solely on how different programs rank each other. The general rankings (under the general headings of "Engineering" or "Physics") are comprised of a number of factors, which is why I think those are more credible.

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You've only just realized that the US News & Report is a joke? Really?

I think your problem is that even though you seem to realize that these rankings are a sham, you are still transfixed with the idea of ranking schools from best to worst. The whole reason why the US News & Report school rankings are so heavily criticized is because there is no such thing as a perfect methodology that can very well rank a school as better or worse than another. I mean law schools are partially ranked based on the number of (probably untouched) books they have in their law library. Does that remotely make any sense to you? And yet people continue to obsess over these rankings as if they are set in stone and not some highly subjective piece of BS.

Stop worrying about rankings and focus more on the opportunities a particular school affords you. Check up on expected job opportunities available to other students in your program. Find alumni and ask them for their input.

It is America's obsessions with ranking EVERYTHING that allows idiotic publishing companies like US News & Report (does anyone actually subscribe to the magazine anymore?) to make millions of dollars putting together some arbitrary ranking system that a third grader could come up with. Make decisions based on what you think is best for you, not based on some dumb ranking.

LOL....

I DID not apply to schools based on rankings. And no, this isn't the first time I've looked into its methodology. But this is the first time I've gone on their website and read their process in detail.

I ACTUALLY was prompted to look it up the other day because someone @ thegradcafe seemed to be basing decisions off of rankings, and I thought it was silly.

Part of my decision process, prompted by my advisors, was that I went to conferences and spoke/met with professors at all of the schools I applied to. I am currently in email conversations with professors and students at schools that I am heavily considering.

My MAIN point of posting this was to let people know that this is what rankings for specific disciplines were based off of.

:-)

also, @ bgav, I agree. that's what I was trying to say too...just that the general rankings were, if anything, slightly more credible than the specialty rankings. It's common knowledge, for example, that my field's rankings are skewed and the #1 and # 2 schools, while good, are not necc the "best" schools you could choose...especially when you factor in what you want to do after you get your phd.

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