Results of National Research Council's survey of doctoral programs

To: UCSC Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Students

From: Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway

The National Research Council's (NRC) long-awaited survey of doctoral programs, "A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States," has finally been released. Based on 2005-06 data, this survey includes more than 5,000 programs at 212 institutions.  The NRC rankings provide ranges of assessment, utilizing a number of variables that address research activity, graduate student support, and diversity. The methodology is extremely complex and has been undergoing revisions up to the time of final release of the data.

Nineteen of our current 32 doctoral programs are covered under the rankings. One additional program is considered an "emerging field" and was assessed but not ranked. Our remaining programs were established too recently to qualify for the survey or are in fields not covered by the survey. 

There are two overall "illustrative" rankings based 1) on regression (R) from perceived quality (i.e. the variable strengths in highly regarded programs were used to produce a regression formula) and 2) from a survey of the variables seen as most significant in producing quality programs (S). Results are presented as rankings with 90 percent confidence intervals rather than the list of institutions in rank order. 

As a relatively young campus with a fast-growing portfolio of graduate programs, UCSC did extremely well. Under the R rankings, Earth and Planetary Sciences and Ocean Sciences placed within the top quartile. Also well placed are MCD Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Physics, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Literature, Linguistics, Environmental Studies and Anthropology. 

Under the second assessment (S), the high-quality programs, seen as among the most attractive to faculty and students, include Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Electrical Engineering, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Physics. Several more programs are within the upper half of the rankings, including MCD Biology, Ocean Sciences, Computer Science, Anthropology and International Economics.

The NRC rankings can be important tools for recruitment of graduate students and faculty. The complexity of the current survey will take considerable time to digest and programs will be able to utilize these data to identify their own strengths.  Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Herbie Lee and Director of Institutional Research Julian Fernald will be conducting open sessions to provide a grounding in the methodology and the ways in which the campus and departments can utilize the data access to best understand their status. A press release on the results also is available online.