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Rankings That Matter

Itís important to note that the University doesnít pay close attention to silly rankings like those that U.S. News or Time puts out. Rather, what really gets provosts excited at night are the National Research Councilís (NRC) rankings of research program quality, which is done every decade or so. The last ranking was released in 1995, and the next set will be completed in 2007.

How did Cornell stack up in the 1995 NRC rankings? Pretty damn well. It was considered to be the best land-grant institution in the country, and across all 41 research program categories in which a school could be ranked, it ranked fourth. And after adjusting for the fact that certain institutions went unranked for certain research programs, Cornell ranked ninth.

Most importantly for these rankings, a strict ordinal ranking system will not be used. Rather programs will be ranked in "bands of quality". After all, there isn't much difference in being 12th or 14th, but there is a difference between being 5th and 25th, especially for research programs.

The University is aiming to rank in the top ten for thirty separate disciplines by 2005. This might be easy to do for the ever-strong humanities and physical science programs, but I suspect that the University has its work cut out for itself in the social sciencesÖ

And for those of you who might think that these rankings are less important than the U.S. News Ranking, think again. The NRC rankings are very important in terms of obtaining research grants for faculty and departments, as well as for improving the reputation of the institution among its peers. And last time I checked, both financial resources and peer evaluations for very important for the U.S. News game, not that I think that those rankings are worthwhile.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 20, 2006 (#)

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