Key Changes in How the 2023 Best Graduate Schools Rankings Were Calculated

Today marks the release of the 2023 U.S. News Best Graduate Schools rankings. Starting in 1990, U.S. News has published annual rankings and data on graduate schools, encompassing master’s, Ph.D. and professional doctorate programs. Our goal, as always, is to help prospective graduate students in various fields make important — and costly — decisions about which institutions will best educate them and further their careers.

The latest edition includes updated annual rankings in business, education, engineering, law, medicine, nursing, public affairs and public health schools. There are also new rankings for the first time in up to four years for graduate programs in social work; doctoral programs in the social sciences and humanities fields of economics and psychology; and doctoral programs in the science fields of biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, math and statistics.

While they will not be updated this year, rankings of doctoral programs in the arts and humanities and graduate programs in certain health-related fields, library sciences and the fine arts will remain available on usnews.com. These rankings are based solely on previously administered academic reputation surveys that were first published in earlier years. They are labeled with the calendar year they were originally published.

As always, the rankings in business, education, engineering, law, medicine and nursing were calculated using a combination of statistics institutions reported directly to U.S. News, and reputation data U.S. News collected both from top academics at ranked schools and relevant professionals in the fields. All other graduate schools rankings were calculated based solely on academic reputation data. In total, U.S. News publishes nearly 200 different graduate rankings that cover all the largest fields of graduate study.

This year, U.S. News adjusted how it calculated some of its rankings. Below are highlights, grouped by discipline. For a more thorough explanation, see About the Best Graduate Schools Rankings and review each methodology of interest.

Sciences

U.S. News published its first-ever ranking of doctoral programs in biostatistics. Career opportunities are expected to grow in this field, inspiring this addition.

Law

U.S. News changed how its existing bar passage rate indicator was calculated to evaluate performance among all states. The indicator now measures a law school’s weighted average bar pass rate among all 2020 first-time test takers in any state compared to the state weighted average pass rate in those same states (both include diploma privilege). It is weighted 3.0%, up from 2.25% last year. Previously, U.S. News measured bar passage test-taker performance based on the performance in the one state where each school had the largest number of bar test takers.

U.S. News added a new library resources and operations indicator that measured each school’s ratio of full-time equivalent librarian professional staff to their full-time equivalent students. It was weighted at 1.0%. This indicator replaced the seven law library indicators from last year’s ranking, which were each weighted at 0.25%, for a total of 1.75%.

Education

A new indicator added this year is total doctoral degrees granted (weighted at 0.025%) for education in 2020-2021. The indicator was introduced as an absolute measure of faculty resources, effectively balancing the doctorates awarded to faculty ratio indicator by crediting programs whose ratios were achieved with larger-scaled cohorts.

The doctorates awarded to faculty ratio decreased in weight from 0.05% to 0.025%. Also, this indicator, which always included full-time and part-time students, was newly compared to total faculty instead of just full-time faculty for more valid cohort alignment.

Likewise, the student-faculty ratio was adjusted to compare full-time equivalent faculty to full-time equivalent doctoral student enrollment. Formerly, full-time faculty only were compared to full-time equivalent enrollment. Both the change to this indicator and the doctorates awarded to faculty ratio indicator account for how part-time faculty comprise a significant proportion of instructors at some education schools.

Finally, a new requirement for education schools to be ranked was to have enrolled in fall 2021 at least 10 total Ph.D. or Ed.D. students (totaling full-time and part-time), up from one student in previous editions. Consequently, fewer schools were ranked this year. U.S. News made this eligibility change to be consistent with its other Best Graduate Schools rankings eligibility criteria that require cohorts large enough to be fairly analyzed.

Medical Schools — Research

Based on medical school deans’ recommendations, U.S. News reallocated the weights of its total federal research activity and average federal research activity per faculty member indicators. The weight of total federal research per faculty member decreased from 15% to 10%, and the weight of total federal research dollar expenditures increased from 25% to 30%. This was done to place greater emphasis on total federal research expenditures data rather than faculty counts.

U.S. News also newly calculated both research activity indicators — total federal research activity and average federal research per faculty member — as two-year averages based on the two most recent years. This was done because year-to-year changes in research grants and contracts tend to be more volatile than changes in other ranking indicator data. Previously those indicators had been based on just the most recent year of data.

Nursing — Master’s and DNP Rankings

A new requirement for nursing-master’s and nursing DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) programs to be ranked was that these programs must have enrolled at least 10 total students (totaling full-time and part-time) in fall 2021 — up from one student in previous editions. Consequently, fewer schools were ranked this year, especially in the nursing master’s rankings. U.S. News made this ranking eligibility change to be consistent with its other Best Graduate Schools rankings eligibility criteria, which require cohorts large enough to be fairly analyzed.

More from U.S. News

45 Graduate Degree Jobs That Can Pay More Than $100K

Is Graduate School Worth the Cost?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Ph.D. Degree — and Should You Get One?

Key Changes in How the 2023 Best Graduate Schools Rankings Were Calculated originally appeared on usnews.com

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