Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Saturday, April 1, 2006

The "Other" U.S. News Rankings: The Sciences

Now that the rankings are actually out, I'll have a few more thoughts on some curious aspects of the underlying data over the next couple of days.  But in addition to the ranking of law schools, which are marred by the baroque and unprincipled formula that has been discussed ad nauseam by everyone at this point, U.S. News has also published new rankings of PhD programs in the sciences (specifically:  Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Earth Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics).  Since we've touched recently on how the U.S. News undergraduate rankings mislead students as to the quality of universities qua graduate institutions, it might be interesting to look at some new data on the quality of graduate programs, albeit more limited (since just the sciences) than other sources.

When it comes to PhD programs, the U.S. News rankings are based on nothing other than a survey of academic specialists in these fields.  (Imagine that:  ratings of academic institutions by academics!  This could catch on, even in law.)  The response rates are, however, uneven:   as low as 21% in biology, as high as 52% in the earth sciences.  Programs were evaluated on the 1-5 scale familiar from the law school surveys; the maximum aggregate score, accordingly, across these six disciplines would be 30.0.  Here, then, are the top 20 universities in the sciences according to the new U.S. News surveys:

Top Science Universities (aggregate score)

1.  Massachussetts Institute of Technology (29.6)

2.  Stanford University (29.5)

3.  University of California, Berkeley (29.1)

4.  California Institute of Technology (28.1)

5.  Harvard University (27.4)

6.  Princeton University (26.6)

7.  Cornell University (26.4)

8.  Yale University (26.3)

9.  Columbia University (25.5)

10. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (25.4)

11. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (25.2)

11. University of Wisconsin, Madison (25.2)

13. University of Texas, Austin (25.1)

14. University of Chicago (24.7)

15. University of California, Los Angeles (24.5)

16. University of Washington, Seattle (24.1)

17. University of California, San Diego (24.0)

18. Johns Hopkins University (23.2)

18. University of Pennsylvania (23.2)

20. Pennsylvania State University (22.5)

Duke, with a total score of 22.2, almost made the top 20.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2006/04/the_other_us_ne.html

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