In a report published by the National Research Council, 33 CU graduate programs were assessed in 32 fields or disciplines, and 20 of those programs are ranked among the top 20 percent in the nation.
The NRC is a private, nonprofit institution that functions under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, according to the NRC website.
According to the CU website, the NRC has not published an assessment of doctoral programs since 1995, so the findings of the study were much anticipated.
The CU Graduate School is pleased with these rankings, although they were not completely unexpected, said Merlyn Holmes, communications coordinator for the CU Graduate School.
“We are not entirely surprised,” Holmes said. “We expected the programs to do well because the NRC study is a truer assessment of the academic quality of our programs. The NRC rankings are different than others because they are more comprehensive, and they have eliminated reputation as a factor in ranking.”
Small programs and programs in business and education were not included in the study, according to the CU website, but the study did examine more than 5,000 Ph.D. programs in the U.S.
Graduate programs in geography, aerospace engineering sciences, integrative physiology, astrophysical and planetary sciences, psychology, mechanical engineering, civil engineering and physics were among the top five percent in their fields.
CU-Boulder’s doctoral programs in geography and aerospace engineering sciences are both second in their field, according to the CU website.
UCLA, UC-Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin at Madison also had geography programs at this level.
Other schools with aerospace engineering sciences programs that ranked at this level were Stanford, MIT and the California Institute of Technology.
The ranking system was based on 20 indicators, such as number of students in 2005, faculty publications 2001-2006, graduation rates and faculty honors and awards. The NRC uses a complex statistical process to combine and analyze the data for each program and compare it to others in its field, according to the CU website.
Some students have said they worry about what these rankings could mean for their workloads.
“The fact that the grad program is so strong is intimidating because of the workload that you will receive, but it feels good to know that the faculty is doing their jobs right,” said Daeguen Kim, a 19 year-old psychology major, who is an undergraduate student but plans to apply to CU for graduate school.
Holmes said the NRC rankings will likely make the graduate school more competitive because there will be a greater and more diverse pool of applicants. However, there will be no increase in tuition as a direct effect of the rankings.
“It will be useful to convey these rankings to prospective students and incoming faculty,” she said. “It has a lot of tangible benefit.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Chelsea Barrett at Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC Berkeley’s latest crisis. UC Berkeley’s recent elimination of popular sports programs highlighted endemic problems in the university’s management. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians in Sacramento, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.
A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Compentent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up….until there was no money left.
It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.
From time to time, a whistleblower would bring some glaring problem to light, but the chancellor’s response was to dig in and defend rather than listen and act. Since UC has been exempted from most whistleblower lawsuits, there are ultimately no negative consequences for maintaining inefficiencies.
In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, students, staff, academic senate, Cal. alumni, and taxpayers await the transformation.