Friday, July 10, 2009

(updated 07/10/09)

National Research Council (NRC) Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs

Yesterday, the National Research Council released the Methodology Guide for the NRC Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs. The Graduate College wants to emphasize that this is NOT the final report of the study. The Graduate College is in the process of studying the guide, which will also be a major agenda item at the Council of Graduate Schools July 11-15 meeting.

The 181 page Methodology Guide contains information on how the study was conducted, the methodology of calculating ratings and rankings, and an example of the calculation of a ranking for a particular program in a single field. Because the methodology is complex and differs from the NRC's 1995 Assessment, NRC wanted to assist those who will have to interpret the study by releasing the methodology in advance.

NRC does not yet have a release date for the final study and database, but it is not expected to be released for another several months.

Below, you will find links that will take you to NRC's web site as well as a link that will lead you directly to a list of the University of Iowa's participating programs. As you review this site, please let us know if you have questions.

National Research Council links

University of Iowa specific links

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the survey undertaken by the NRC is considered the gold standard for rating American graduate programs. The final report to be released sometime in the fall of 2009 is the third NRC survey (previous assessments were conducted in 1983 and in 1995). NRC's intent was to "design a study that will help universities improve the quality of doctorate programs, provide potential students and the public with accessible, readily available information on doctoral programs nationwide, and enhance the nation's overall research capacity."

Work on the NRC Assessment began at The University of Iowa in late 2005 with the final submission of all surveys by September 2007. Based on criteria established by NRC, 50 of our 70+ doctoral programs were eligible for the assessment project. The project consisted of 4 different survey questionnaires - an institutional survey (completed by the Graduate College); program surveys of our doctoral programs (completed by the programs with assistance by the Graduate College); individual surveys sent to core faculty in each of the participating doctoral programs; and a student survey sent to postcomp students enrolled in 2005-06 in Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, English, Economics, Neuroscience, and Physics. The Graduate College received IRB approval to participate in all phases of the NRC Assessment.

What differs this time from the two previous surveys is a rating rather than ranking of programs, the availability of this rich data to students and the public, and the increase in the number of programs assessed. As noted in the Methodology Guide, NRC will provide an overall rating for each program based on twenty variables customized by discipline. In addition to those, sub-ratings for areas of faculty productivity, student support and outcomes, and diversity were also measured.

When the final report is released, data will also be released in the Chronicle of Higher Education; Inside Higher Education; Science; and one or two additional national papers.

Questions/suggestions may be directed to or