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Doctoral Programs Fare Well in Long-Awaited Report

Multiple doctoral programs at Carolina spanning the sciences, arts and humanities, medicine, social sciences and public health are highly rated in a long-awaited new assessment conducted by the National Research Council.

The rankings are part of the NRC’s assessments of research doctorate programs at 212 U.S. colleges and universities; more than 5,000 programs in 62 fields were evaluated. The rankings had not been revised since 1995, and this is only the third time they have ever been done.

The NRC represents the national academies, which advise the federal government in all areas of science and technology.

“Overall, the NRC results affirm that Carolina is one of the nation’s great research universities,” said Steve Matson, dean of UNC’s Graduate School.

“One of our greatest strengths is the breadth of interdisciplinary expertise among the faculty,” he said. “That really comes through in our analysis of the NRC results so far.”

UNC submitted information about 53 programs as part of the NRC process dating back to 2006. The ratings are based on 20 key variables reflecting faculty quality and research productivity, student graduation rates, student activities, various demographics and Graduate Record Examination scores, among other categories. The NRC emphasized that the ratings are illustrative; it’s impossible to associate a specific numerical ranking with a program. Instead, programs are ranked in percentile ranges.

Looking at NRC results of the top quartile of graduate programs in their field or discipline, virtually all of UNC’s doctoral programs would fall within the top 25 percent nationally in at least one of the NRC ranking methods.

“Our focus will be on using this information to help improve programs,” Matson said. “We don’t view the NRC process as perfect, but it’s a positive step forward for evaluating the quality of doctoral education in the United States.”

The report offers multiple ways of viewing programs. Using one NRC overall ranking method, the following UNC doctoral programs would fall within the top 10 percent of programs in their field or discipline nationally:

  • nutrition,
  • pharmacology,
  • religious studies,
  • cell and molecular physiology,
  • chemistry,
  • history,
  • genetics and molecular biology;
  • computer science,
  • sociology,
  • pharmaceutical sciences,
  • statistics,
  • art history,
  • materials sciences and
  • human movement science, which involves UNC’s exercise and sport science, physical therapy and biomedical engineering units and focuses on human movement, aging and preventing injuries.

By another overall ranking, these UNC doctoral programs would fall within the top 10 percent of programs in their field or discipline nationally:

  • nutrition,
  • pharmacology,
  • religious studies,
  • chemistry,
  • history,
  • genetics and molecular biology,
  • computer science,
  • toxicology,
  • communication studies,
  • English,
  • pharmaceutical sciences,
  • Romance languages — Spanish,
  • sociology,
  • political science,
  • epidemiology,
  • cell and molecular physiology,
  • classics,
  • human movement science,
  • statistics and
  • art history.

The NRC also used dimensional categories designed to reflect one aspect of a doctoral program’s quality: research activity, student services and outcomes, and diversity.

  • In research activity, these programs would fall within the top 10 percent of programs in their field or discipline nationally: nutrition, pharmacology, religious studies, chemistry, history, nursing, cell and molecular physiology, computer science, pharmaceutical sciences, sociology, genetics and molecular biology, and materials sciences.
  • In student services and outcomes, these programs would fall within the top 10 percent of programs in their field or discipline nationally: human movement sciences, maternal and child health, public policy, communication studies, religious studies, genetics and molecular biology, political science, sociology, biochemistry and biophysics, nutrition, philosophy, microbiology and immunology, art history, and journalism and mass communication.
  • In diversity, these programs would fall within the top 10 percent of programs in their field or discipline nationally: materials sciences, maternal and child health, art history and neurobiology.

UNC’s full NRC results are available on the Graduate School website.


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