Grad schools shift upward in rankings

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Four of Northwestern’s graduate schools improved their rankings in the “Best Graduate Schools 2004” guide released Friday by U.S. News & World Report.

The Law School was the only graduate program that dropped in the annual rankings — falling one spot to No. 12. Kellogg School of Management, Feinberg School of Medicine, School of Education and Social Policy and McCormick School of Science and Engineering and Applied Sciences all moved up one spot from last year.

But deans of NU’s graduate schools are skeptical about the merit of the U.S. News rankings and whether their schools’ placement reflects the quality of education and number of applicants in the coming year.

Law School Dean David Van Zandt said it is difficult to speculate why the school’s rank dropped this year.

“We don’t want to put too much emphasis on the decline,” he said. “What’s much more important to us is what we’re doing programmatically.”

Van Zandt said the school received nearly 5,000 applications this year — up 20 percent from last year. Most other law schools’ admissions requests were up only 10 percent, he said. Law School students’ LSAT scores rank sixth in the country, he said.

The Law School also differs from other schools because substantial work experience, along with an interview, are necessary components of the application, Van Zandt said.

Jeffrey Miller, Feinberg’s senior executive associate and chief operating officer, said although he is pleased Feinberg moved up, the rankings are not “scientifically valid or methodologically sound.”

Feinberg’s administration, Miller said, lends more credence to a survey of hospital residency program directors that ranked Feinberg 13th out of 125 medical schools this year.

“That is phenomenal (because) the survey goes to people who decide whether to take students from NU or students from Washington University in St. Louis or students from Yale (University),” he said. “If you think about the users of our graduates, I take that as a positive reinforcement of the training we do for medical students.”

But Miller said many students still take the rankings into account when deciding where to apply.

Education Dean Penelope Peterson said she is very pleased about the school’s higher ranking.

“For the past two years we were number 10, and that was the first time we’d made it into the top 10,” she said. “(So) we’re really excited that we’re number nine.”

Peterson said the school can now hire some of the top people in the country. The school is recruiting a professor who would leave a tenure-track position at Stanford University, she said. Stanford’s education program placed No. 2 in the rankings for her school.

But McCormick Dean John Birge is more skeptical about the U.S. News rankings.

“For what it’s worth, we seem to have improved a little bit,” he said. “We’re not too interested in selling magazines for U.S. News. It doesn’t seem to have a great deal of influence over what people actually do.”

When McCormick evaluates its performance, Birge said the school looks at how many students chose it over other programs.

Heidi Diedrich, Kellogg’s director of media relations, said the school does not rely on the rankings to determine its success.

“We believe our success is due in very large part to our excellent students and outstanding faculty, (along with) the partnerships we’ve developed with corporate leaders and alliances in different countries,” she said. “(Kellogg) truly is a global brand, and we work very hard to maintain our global network with alumni as well as corporations.”

In October, Kellogg was ranked No. 1 by in BusinessWeek and The Economist Intelligence Unit, a division of The Economist magazine.

The Daily’s Jerome C. Pandell contributed to this report.