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Polishing PhD Program Rankings

Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed reports that in response to "criticism it received in the internal peer review of its forthcoming doctoral program rankings," the National Research Council intends to change its methodologies "in a few key places." Namely, the proposed changes "are likely to divide the main ranking of each program into two separate rankings — one based on explicit faculty determinations of which criteria matter in given disciplines, and one based on implicit criteria," Jaschik reports. According to Inside Higher Ed, the NRC "is likely to release ranges of ratings for a 90 percent 'confidence level,' not the confidence level target of 50 percent that was in the methodology released last year." While the NRC has not formally announced plans to change its ranking methodology, Jeremiah Ostriker of Princeton University tells Inside Higher Ed the changes are "'likely' but not yet certain." Inside Higher Ed reports that Ostriker says that the confidence level percentage change "will make it more difficult for people to pinpoint exactly where a program stands." Some fear that the NRC may be further complicating the ranking formula. Robert Morse, director of college ratings at US News & World Report, tells Inside Higher Ed that "they [NRC] seem to be trying to produce something so sophisticated and complicated and nuanced that they think will give it credibility in the marketplace. I just wonder whether anyone's going to understand it. Do you need a PhD to understand it? If you can't understand it, I just wonder whether it's going to be accepted."