I dislike judging schools that I know virtually nothing about."
Like it or
not, rankings of engineering schools are here to stay. The public's
demand for this information gives tremendous clout to publications
such as U.S. News & World Report. While these rankings may
be imperfect, and perhaps seriously flawed, they are widely read,
fervently discussed and seem to be increasing in influence.
have a vested interest in national rankings and most deans at
research universities spend some time figuring out how to improve
the ranking of their institutions. As a result, a serious argument
can be made for understanding and improving the ranking system
or even creating our own.
one get highly ranked? First, it helps to be really big. Virtually
all of the mega-engineering schools (4,000 or more undergraduates)
are ranked in the top 50 and being big implies more total research
expenditures and more Ph.D. students.
private seems to offer an advantage; you need not to be nearly
as big if you are private.
helps to be in California (7 of the top 23 in the U.S. News rankings
are located in California). Unfortunately, doubling enrollment,
going private and moving to California are not options that any
of us can exercise, at least not without a lot of planning.
for moving up include rejecting as many applicants as possible.
If you can get a lot of unqualified students to apply, and then
reject them, it could help. Or, you could decrease your faculty
size. This could improve your standing in regard to several of
U.S. News' ranking measures, including Ph.D. student/faculty ratio
and research expenditures per faculty.
rankings do give students a list of schools where they can get
a great education and it provides the names of some schools that
may be overlooked.
this or other surveys be improved? I offer a few suggestions.
survey that goes out to deans and department heads could be improved.
Personally, I dislike judging schools that I know virtually nothing
about. What I would suggest is that each respondent be asked to
provide a list of the top 25 and second 25 schools in the nation.
believe all school and department rankings, not just the top 50,
should be published, at least on the Web. For example, few of
you probably know that the University of Pittsburgh's graduate
school of engineering is 59th in the news magazine's rankings.
The reason you don't know is because U.S. News doesn't make this
information available to the general public. It is not shared
with interested students, corporations or academic peers. If this
ranking were listed on the Web, then our strong features (faculty
resources and research, which are in the U.S. News top 50) could
data should be used to obtain research expenditures, enrollments
and degrees produced. This will provide more consistency and better
vote to eliminate GREs and acceptance ratios as measures of quality.
I would add research expenditures per Ph.D., since this ratio
more accurately reflects the resources from which students will
benefit in their graduate education.
for the non-academic (industry-based) aspect of the survey, U.S.
News should sample a cross section of industry representatives,
not just the recruiters at the top schools. This produces potentially
biased rankings, especially in schools not in the top 25. Recently,
I had an opportunity to survey CEO's and other top executives
from such companies as USX, Alcoa, Alcatel, BP, Westinghouse,
and EOG Resources, who serve on the Board of Visitors for the
school of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Their rankings,
in order, included: MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Stanford,
Purdue, Rensselaer, Cal Tech, Michigan, Lehigh, Princeton, Case
Western, Cornell, and Berkeley. The University of Pittsburgh was
ranked 23rd. This survey samples a highly qualified group and
its results are not too different from the U.S. News survey. But
it is clear that higher rankings at Pitt and other geographically
adjacent schools reflect some bias that these individuals have
because of a strong affiliation with the institutions. I suggest
that the current U.S. News survey is equally biased because it
is surveying those with affiliations to particular schools.
to U.S. News might be to provide opportunities for other qualitative
rankings that demonstrate outstanding engineering education at
the undergraduate level. For example, which schools offer the
largest co-op programs, the best study abroad opportunities or
focus most on student diversity?
would be more useful to provide a variety of rankings using different
measures rather than a single overall composite. Currently, only
the top 50 can be compared using various statistics.
if U.S. News cannot respond to our needs, we as engineering faculty
should consider developing a new ranking system that can be accessed
from our Web sites. If this were done, our rankings would likely
supplement those of U.S. News as the primary source of information
for prospective students. I could live with that.
Holder is the USX dean of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.