NRC Rankings: past is prologue

The National Research Council releases its data based ranking of US graduate programs on Tuesday September 28th.

NRC website with methodology and FAQ on rankings

The rankings are much perused and much abused, by anyone from prospective grads, to axe-wielding provosts.

The last rankings were done in 1995, and used the classic "reputational" method.
Basically NRC grandees called their old muckers back at the unis and asked them who was any good, starting, please, with Harvard, Princeton and Yale...

It worked, though the methodology was somewhat criticized and the results were most definitely lagging indicators, not current, and certainly not forward looking.

The new methodology is much mo' better.
Really, it is, though the final output is not quite as good as it could be, as some less numerate administrator types pushed back on the original plan and somewhat diluted the robustness of the rankings as published.

But that is for tomorrow night, as we ramp up to the great data release.

Now, we contemplate the past, thanks to Prof Newton's compilation at Texas A&M

Here is Newton's overview page with sorting options

I care about my area, of course.

Astronomy and Astrophysics: aka Area 27:

NRC Rankings in Astrophys/Astron

1 Cal Tech 4.91
2 Princeton 4.79
3 Cal Berkeley 4.65
4 Harvard 4.49
5 Chicago 4.36
6 Cal Santa Cruz 4.31
7 Arizona 4.10
8 MIT 4.00
9 Cornell 3.98
10 Texas 3.65
11 Hawaii Manoa 3.60
12 Colorado 3.54
13 Illinois 3.53
14 Wisconsin 3.46
15 Yale 3.31
16 UCLA 3.27
17 Virginia 3.23
18 Columbia 3.20
19 Maryland 3.07
20 Massachusetts 3.04
21 Penn State 3.00
22 Stanford 2.96
23 Ohio State 2.91
24 Minnesota 2.89
25 Michigan 2.65
26 SUNY Stony Brook 2.58
27 Boston University 2.40
28 Indiana 2.16
29 LSU 2.06
30 Iowa State 2.03
31 Florida 1.98
32 New Mexico State 1.85
33 Georgia State 1.81

Only 33 programs are ranked, this is in part becuse a lot of universities have astronomy within physics, and in part because a program has to be both a certain size and certain age before it is ranked.
I think there are about 55 PhD programs in astronomy in the US.

Caltech is number 1, of course.
Data was collected in 1993, for the 1995 survey, my PhD in astrophysics is dated 1992 ;-)

Actually I finished in 1991, but missed the graduation deadline (I blame Bush), and I was in physics, but my PhD was astrophysics.
Really it was.

My then postdoc employer, was UCSC, which ranked #6, which is about right, back then the top 4 were up there, and 5-7 seemed about even but with different strengths.

My current employer, PSU was #21, out of 33... need to do something about that.

Compare with the Rankings in Area 33 - aka Physics

NRC Rankings in Physics

1 Harvard 4.91
2 Princeton 4.89
3 MIT 4.87
4 Cal Berkeley 4.87
5 Cal Tech 4.81
6 Cornell 4.75
7 Chicago 4.69
8 Illinois 4.66
9 Stanford 4.53
10 Cal Santa Barbara 4.43
11 Texas 4.33
12 Columbia 4.25
13 Yale 4.21
14 Washington 4.20
15 UCLA 4.18
16 Cal San Diego 4.10
17 Penn 4.09
18 Maryland 4.02
19 Michigan 3.96
20 Rutgers 3.82
21 Wisconsin 3.79
22 SUNY Stony Brook 3.76
23 Minnesota 3.76
24 Ohio State 3.75
25 Rochester 3.65
26 Brown 3.60
27 Carnegie Mellon 3.56
28 Johns Hopkins 3.51
29 Rockefeller 3.46
30 Purdue 3.44
31 Michigan State 3.43
32 Indiana 3.37
33 Cal Irvine 3.37
34 CUNY 3.36
35 Florida 3.35
36 Northwestern 3.31
37 Colorado 3.30
38 Boston University 3.28
39 Pittsburgh 3.27
40 Rice 3.25
41 Florida State 3.25
42 Duke 3.25
43 Brandeis 3.25
44 Virginia 3.23
45 Arizona 3.23
46 Texas A&M 3.22
47 Cal Santa Cruz 3.22
48 Southern Cal 3.17
49 Iowa State 3.17
50 North Carolina State 3.16
51 Washington (St. Louis) 3.15
52 North Carolina 3.14
53 NYU 3.14
54 Penn State 3.08
55 Notre Dame 3.06
56 Vanderbilt 3.04
57 Utah 3.04
58 Syracuse 3.04
59 Oregon 3.03
60 Houston 3.02
61 Georgia Tech 3.02
62 William & Mary 3.00
63 Massachusetts 2.97
64 Case Western 2.96
65 Northeastern 2.91
66 Cal Davis 2.89
67 RPI 2.88
68 Cal Riverside 2.88
69 Arizona State 2.87
70 VPI 2.86
71 Tennessee 2.83
72 Iowa 2.79
73 Delaware 2.76
74 Georgia 2.73
75 Oregon State 2.69
76 Tufts 2.66
77 Kent State 2.65
78 Nebraska 2.64
79 LSU 2.64
80 Drexel 2.62
81 Hawaii Manoa 2.61
82 Ohio 2.60
83 Dartmouth College 2.60
84 South Carolina 2.58
85 SUNY Albany 2.58
86 Illinois Tech 2.56
87 Illinois Chicago 2.56
88 Alaska 2.50
89 Wisconsin Milwaukee 2.49
90 Texas Dallas 2.48
91 Kentucky 2.48
92 Kansas 2.46
93 Temple 2.43
94 Oklahoma 2.42
95 New Hampshire 2.41
96 Akron 2.40
97 Lehigh 2.39
98 Missouri 2.38
99 Kansas State 2.33
100 Connecticut 2.33
101 Cincinnati 2.33
102 Catholic University 2.33
103 North Texas 2.30
104 Colorado State 2.30
105 Montana State 2.27
106 Colorado School of Mines 2.25
107 SUNY Buffalo 2.24
108 Stevens Tech 2.23
109 Brigham Young 2.21
110 New Mexico State 2.19
111 Maine 2.18
112 Clarkson 2.13
113 Alabama Huntsville 2.13
114 Tulane 2.12
115 Arkansas 2.12
116 Texas Arlington 2.11
117 Washington State 2.10
118 Texas Tech 2.10
119 Alabama 2.08
120 Oklahoma State 2.07
121 Miami 2.03
122 Missouri Rolla 2.00
123 American 2.00
124 Massachusetts Lowell 1.92
125 Polytechnic 1.91
126 Alabama Birmingham 1.90
127 Auburn 1.88
128 Rhode Island 1.85
129 Clark 1.82
130 Boston College 1.80
131 Old Dominion 1.70
132 Denver 1.61
133 Oakland 1.60
134 Howard 1.60
135 New Mexico Mining & Tech 1.57
136 Worcester Polytechnic Inst 1.48
137 Bryn Mawr 1.48
138 Michigan Tech 1.47
139 George Washington 1.45
140 Mississippi 1.42
141 Nevada Reno 1.31
142 Oregon Tech 1.27
143 Puerto Rico Rio Piedras 1.22
144 Baylor 1.13
145 TCU 0.67
146 Florida Inst of Tech 0.46

Note the strength of the high endowment old private universities, in both categories, and Berkeley's and Illinois's high ranks.
The other thing to take away from the rankings, is that, especially for public universities, size matters - big departments tend to rank high, all things being equal. Especially for reputational rankings.

In two days we will see how things have changed.
If any.

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At least this year's rankings were done with data pre-CA budget cuts; I have the feeling Berkeley (and other UC schools) would drop several spots if the present situation were rated.

By Therese Jones (not verified) on 27 Sep 2010 #permalink

In astronomy the mass exodus that seemed to be looming in the rumor mill (at, e.g., UCSC) did not materialize. This may not be the case in other departments. ( http://cdm.berkeley.edu/doku.php?id=astrojobs10 )

At the same time, I don't think people consider the finances of the institutions when they consider the reputation of the department. (Many well endowed universities lost a lot of money too, but since it is mostly behind closed doors, there isn't as much press over a long period of time as you get when the state still hasn't passed a budget).

This new NRC rankings are developed by four Printonians. They are the big cheaters!

By Goers Smith (not verified) on 06 Oct 2010 #permalink