September 30, 2010
34 University of Washington doctoral programs rated highly on national assessment
By Elizabeth Lowry
Director of Marketing and Communications
The Graduate School
Fifteen of the UW’s doctoral programs were very highly rated, and 19 programs were highly rated among their peers at major universities across the country in an assessment by the National Research Council, according to the UW Graduate School’s analysis of the rankings.
The NRC evaluated 5,000 doctoral programs from 212 universities nationwide — including 62 from the UW — and released the results Sept. 28.
The assessment, according to the NRC, is designed to help universities evaluate and improve the quality of their programs and to provide prospective students with information on the nation’s doctoral programs. The NRC rankings do not assign numbers or ratings to individual programs, or to universities as a whole. The rankings — based on information including faculty research, degree completion rates, entrance exam scores and faculty and student diversity — place each program within a range to indicate how it compares to like programs at other universities. The NRC also asked faculty at research universities nationwide to identify the characteristics of excellent doctoral programs, and then asked the faculty to rate doctoral programs in their respective disciplines. All information for the assessment was gathered in 2006, and the report’s release has been delayed several times.
The NRC study focused only on doctoral programs and did not evaluate the UW’s highly regarded professional programs in law, dentistry, medicine, business and pharmacy.
“Although the data were gathered four years ago, the assessment gives us a baseline to understand the quality of the University of Washington’s doctoral programs and how we compare to others across the country,” said Gerald J. Baldasty, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. “The assessment illustrates the excellence of our larger programs in math and science such as Applied Mathematics, Forest Resources and Nursing, and notes the quality of some of our smaller programs, like Drama.”
Using the NRC’s data, the Graduate School sorted the UW’s top programs into two tiers based on overall rankings. Tier one encompasses the very highly rated programs, those that were consistently rated in the top 10 percent of programs nationwide. Tier two includes programs that were highly rated, meaning they were rated in the top 20 percent of programs nationwide.
The UW’s very highly rated doctoral programs include:
- Applied Mathematics
- Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
- Atmospheric Sciences
- Forest Resources
- Genome Sciences
- Molecular and Cellular Biology
The UW’s highly rated doctoral programs include:
- Chemical Engineering
- Computer Science & Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Geological Sciences
- Mechanical Engineering
- Neurobiology and Behavior
- Nutritional Sciences
- Pharmacy-Medicinal Chemistry
- Political Science
“This is an extremely impressive report card because more than half of the UW programs evaluated can be called top 20 programs. We are proud to be in the relatively small group of public universities that can claim to have so many outstanding programs,” Baldasty said.
The rankings also evaluated individual areas including faculty research, student support and diversity.
The NRC rankings reflect the exceptional research efforts that are the hallmark of the UW. In 2005-06, the UW received $990 million in research dollars, and by 2009-10 that number had climbed to $1.32 billion. Each year since 1974, the UW has received more federal research funding than any other American public university.
When measured for faculty research, Atmospheric Sciences, Bioengineering, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Microbiology and Statistics were very highly rated. The highly rated programs in research were Applied Mathematics, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, Astronomy, Biochemistry, Biostatistics, Drama, Epidemiology, Genome Sciences, History, Immunology, Nursing, Nutritional Science, Pharmacology, Pharmacy-Medicinal Chemistry, Political Science and Psychology.
“These rankings underscore the tremendous vitality and impressive range of faculty research at the University of Washington. Many people know of the University’s work in health sciences, and this assessment shows additional real strength in the arts, social sciences and natural sciences,” Baldasty said.
Additionally, the NRC rankings recognized Drama, Health Services and Statistics for providing student support, while Art History, Classics, Drama and Music were highly ranked for their student diversity. Since 2006, the University has seen a jump the number of doctoral students who are underrepresented minorities (defined as African Americans, American Indians, Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and Hispanic Americans). In 2006, 7.6 percent of the UW’s doctoral students were underrepresented minorities. By 2009, that number had increased to 9.9 percent.
Applied Mathematics and Nutritional Sciences were in the top five of similar programs for the number of faculty citations in publications and the percentage of interdisciplinary faculty on their staffs.
In 1995, the last time the NRC issued rankings of doctoral programs, 22 of the UW’s doctoral programs were ranked highly.
To learn more about the assessment, UW faculty, staff and students are invited to an open forum from 9 to 10:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 1, at the UW Club (lower level). William Zumeta, UW professor in the Evans School of Public Affairs and the College of Education, and John Drew, director of the Graduate School’s computing and information resources, will join Baldasty in answering questions.
Zumeta has extensively analyzed the NRC’s methodology, and his report, along with a short summary of it, is posted here.