NRC University Rankings 2012

As an undergraduate, there are a number of lists that rank colleges and can be used to help you decide between all of the schools you’re considering. However, there are fewer resources available to post-graduate students, especially those considering doctorate programs. The National Research Council, or NRC, compiles one of the best rankings available. While this list should just be one piece of the research you do to find the best program for your educational and career goals, it is a great start in discovering what programs from across the country have to offer.

About the National Research Council

The NRC is a part of the United States National Academies, which is composed of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. It was first formed in the early 1900s to develop technologies for use in war, but after World War I was over, the organization became unaffiliated with the military.

Unlike many college rankings, the NRC doesn’t compile a new list of programs every year. The last report was released in 1995, and about a decade after that, they began compiling information to update the list. A new version of the list hasn’t yet been released, but the NRC have confirmed that there are around 200 programs participating in surveys and information-gathering to compile a new list.

Because this list is only updated occasionally, instead of being updated every year, the organization is able to really fine-tune the methodology used to compile each list. In order to get a better understanding of what is most important in a program, the NRC sent surveys to a number of PhD-level professors to get an understanding of the characteristics that provide the best education for students.

Ranking Methodology

In addition to surveying faculty members, the NRC also gathers data from the institution, each individual department or program of study, and the students. Select faulty members are also asked to rate other programs in their field, so peer assessment is considered in the final rankings of the colleges. The data collected from all of these surveys falls into three distinct categories:

  • Research Activity
  • Student Support and Outcomes
  • Diversity of Academic Environment

Some of the individual characteristics making up these categories include employment of students after graduation, research being doing by the school, and publications by professors. These individual characteristics are weighted based on how the professors rated their importance.

In the past, the final lists released by the NRC haven’t been rankings in the traditional sense that they provide a list of colleges from best to worst. Instead, the programs are rated on a scale, like you’d find with a movie rating or restaurant rating. However, a number of other organizations and individuals have further broken down the information provided to make clear ranking lists, based on specific factors in the NRC data. All of these can be very helpful to you when you’re learning about the different programs available for a doctorate in your field.

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