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ASU doctorate programs rate highly in report

September 30, 2010

Within the highest ratings reported for excellence in doctorate programs, more than half of Arizona State University’s programs submitted for consideration placed in the top 25 percent in the nation.

The ratings were released by the National Research Council under the National Academies of Sciences in a report that assesses research doctorate programs in the United States. The report is based on data collected in 2005 and considers the 25 programs in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and engineering ASU submitted for consideration. Download Full Image

Since 1993, when ASU’s programs were last rated, 76 percent have shown marked improvement (16 out of 21).

The highest rated programs include:

• Psychology (peer group includes the University of Washington, USC, University of Texas Austin, Michigan State, Penn State)
• Geography (peer group includes UCLA and Berkeley)
• Electrical Engineering (peer group includes USC, Carnegie Mellon, Ohio State, Johns Hopkins)
• Civil and Environmental Engineering (peer group includes California Institute of Technology, Cornell, USC, Ohio State, Duke)
• Materials Science and Engineering (peer group includes UCLA, Duke, Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Institute of Tech and Johns Hopkins)
• Chemistry (peer group includes Texas A &M, University of Maryland and Emory)
• Other programs ranked highly were history, economics and English

The NRC ratings do not give a number or point score to each academic program. Instead, they are compiled from data acquired from questionnaires sent to the universities, the doctoral programs, the faculty of these programs, and to advanced doctoral students, as well as data from the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Scientific Information and from 224 scholarly and honorary societies.

Some of the factors considered include faculty research productivity: books, scholarly publications, honors and awards; institutional support for students and completion rates; and the diversity of faculty and students, among other characteristics.

The NRC report does not include an authoritative declaration of the “best programs” in given fields, as the study committee concluded that no single such ranking could be produced in an unambiguous and rigorous way.

According to ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi, “The dataset shows the complexity of evaluating academic programs, with many variables that are difficult to measure in a reliable fashion. While it is gratifying to see the great improvement in our programs since 1993, our programs have continued to improve since these data were collected in 2005. There has been a general increase in quality of our faculty and Ph.D. students that is reflected in increased student quality, graduate student support and research grants generated by faculty.”

For example, ASU sponsored project expenditures in all NCR rated programs have increased by 38 percent since the data was submitted, doctoral degrees awarded have increased from 389 to 587, and the percentage of students who are from underrepresented minority groups has increased from 14 to 18 percent.

“These objective measures show ASU's achievements in providing access to excellence in graduate education,” Capaldi said.

Maria Allison, university vice provost and dean of the Graduate College, said she is most proud of the members of the ASU faculty, who are both exceptional researchers and excellent teachers.

“ASU faculty in the top ranked programs are not only distinguished scholars but are acknowledged for outstanding work with graduate students,” Allison said. "Several have received ASU’s Outstanding Doctoral Mentor award, based on student nominations, most recently professor Leona Aiken in psychology and professor Terry Alford in engineering.”

Sharon Keeler

associate director, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering