Study Ranks NU 28th In Faculty Productivity

Libby Nelson

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By Libby NelsonThe Daily Northwestern

Fifteen of Northwestern’s doctoral programs rank among the nation’s best based on faculty research productivity, according to a study by New York company Academic Analytics.

Overall, the study ranked NU 28th among large research universities – behind Washington University in St. Louis and two Big Ten colleagues, the universities of Wisconsin and Michigan. But NU was ahead of the University of Chicago, considered a strong research institution.

“It did seem like some of the traditional (programs) that you would see ranked highly were not there,” said Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations.

“I think most people were sort of, ‘Well, that’s interesting,’ but there might be some questions about the methodology.”

The study ranked graduate departments and doctoral programs at colleges and universities around the country according to faculty members’ published material in the last five years, as well as their awards and citations in other scholarly works.

The ranking places NU significantly lower than the National Research Council did in its 1995 study of graduate programs, which used similar criteria. On that list, NU was 18th.

The survey’s short time frame makes its conclusions suspect, said Marilyn McCoy, NU vice president for administration and planning.

“If you wrote a book six years ago, it doesn’t count,” McCoy said. “Faculty have a career much longer than five years.”

The National Research Council survey looks at the entire career of faculty members and is now working on an update to their 1995 rankings, McCoy said.

“It’s a much more thoughtful approach,” she said.

While none of NU’s doctoral programs ranked at the top of their disciplines, three – materials science and engineering, public administration and policy, and marketing – were ranked second in the nation. The School of Communication’s theatre program was third.

“Research has always been something that’s been very important to the department, along with service and education,” said Peter Voorhees, director of the graduate program in materials science at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

One reasons the program ranked highly was that other researchers in the field are citing NU professors’ work, showing it has an impact on knowledge about the subject as a whole, Voorhees said.

But the rankings don’t take the entire program into account, he said.

“This is just one measure of success,” he said. “It doesn’t address what we do with our undergraduate program and where our undergraduates go, which I think is just as important as production of our scholarly works.”

One other McCormick program, civil and environmental engineering, made Academic Analytic’s top-10 list, at fourth place.

Three programs in the Kellogg Graduate School of Management – accounting, finance and management – also ranked in the top 10.

In the Graduate School, the chemistry program was ranked fourth; programs in African and African-American Studies were ranked seventh; and the French, history and anthropology programs were ranked 10th.

The mass communications doctoral program was ranked seventh. In the School of Communication, the communication sciences and disorders program ranked fifth.

Reach Libby Nelson at libbynelson@northwestern.edu.

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