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University Rankings: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

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University Rankings: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Posted January 20, 1999

Universities have a love/hate relationship with ranking surveys, such as those conducted by U.S. News and World Report and the National Research Council (NRC). When an institution places high, the rankings are considered solid indicators of educational quality. If it receives low marks, the surveys are labeled inaccurate and arbitrary.

"For good or bad, rankings are perceived as having a lot of influence both commercially, as in luring students and faculty, and in the granting of research funds from government agencies," said John Douglass, a research fellow at Berkeley's Center for Studies in Higher Education.

According to Hugh Graham of Vanderbilt University and Nancy Diamond of Goucher College, authors of the book "The Rise of the American Research University," alternative approaches to rankings need to be developed so that a school's attributes, as well as its shortcomings, are more accurately represented.

The authors will be on campus Friday, Jan. 29 at 1 p.m. in 322 Wheeler Hall, along with Charlotte Kuh of the NRC and Amy Graham of U.S. News and World Report, to discuss current graduate ranking structures and possible alternatives.

By using more complex criteria -- for example, measuring research productivity and its impact on a particular field or balancing the evaluation of disciplines such as science and humanities -- Graham and Diamond say rankings can provide a more comprehensive profile of a university.

"With the NRC now in the preliminary stages of its 2002 study, the Jan. 29 discussion may have some influence on the methodology used," said Douglass, who helped organize the discussion.

Those planning to attend the event should email their name and phone number to or call 642-5040. For information visit the Center for Higher Education website at


January 20 - 26, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 19)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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