National Research Council doctoral program ratings released

The National Research Council (NRC) Tuesday released its long-awaited assessment of research doctoral programs, including ratings of 47 of Stanford's doctoral programs.

The new study uses a complex methodology and statistical analysis to measure what NRC considers to be indicators of program quality. Rather than simply listing programs in numerical order, the assessment gives each program five ratings: two overall measures, and one each for research activity, student support and outcomes, and diversity of the academic environment. Among the intended audiences are university faculty, administrators and prospective graduate students.

Stanford's Office of Institutional Research and Decision Support has more information about the NRC assessment, including frequently asked questions and methodology, at

The NRC report and database evaluate 4,838 programs in 62 fields at 212 institutions. It can be downloaded from

"Overall, Stanford University did well in the National Research Council's assessment. However, the university will not be commenting on the specific rating or ranking of individual programs included in the NRC's report," said Patricia J. Gumport, vice provost for graduate education.

"Many aspects of a high-quality education cannot be reduced to quantitative measures. Every student's assessment of where to pursue graduate studies should be based on his or her own careful analysis of what the program has to offer. The decision of where to enroll should not be based on a rating or ranking from any organization," Gumport said.

"Stanford takes great pride in the quality of our many graduate programs, which have long track records of innovation and excellence across a broad range of fields. Stanford is particularly known for promoting interdisciplinary research and education that has yielded generations of outstanding leaders in academia, industry and government."

Using data from the 2005-06 academic year, the NRC based the ratings on 20 variables including measures of faculty research activity, student support and outcomes, and faculty and student demographics. Stanford participated in the data collection process by providing data about its programs, faculty and students to the NRC in 2006-07. Many Stanford faculty members completed a survey conducted in spring 2007. Some data were also developed directly by the NRC, including data on publications, citations and grants.

Each rated program received two different overall measures – one based on faculty opinions of the relative importance of the various program factors (dubbed S-rankings, for Survey), and one based on a regression analysis linking reputational scores to the program factors (R-rankings).

Also, instead of the usual single-number ranking, each of the five NRC ratings is being reported in a range of rankings representing the middle 90 percent. For example, a program could have a rating between 5 (5 percent) and 13 (95 percent). The range means that 10 percent of the time, the rating might fall outside the range. The range is intended to reflect the inherent differences among raters, statistical uncertainty and variability in year-to-year data.