Berkeley PhD Programs Earn Top Ranks Nationwide

Highly Regarded National Research Council Study Again Distinguishes Many of Our Doctoral Programs

by Gretchen Kell

Berkeley has both the largest number and the highest percentage of top-ranked doctoral programs of any university in the nation, according to a comprehensive new study released Sept. 12 by the National Research Council.

An impressive 35 of the 36 Berkeley PhD programs assessed in the survey received a top 10 ranking.

Overall, 97 percent of the Berkeley programs surveyed--ranging from classics to chemical engineering to political science--made the top 10 list.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, with 87 percent of their doctoral programs in the top 10, tied for second place. Stanford came in fourth with 78 percent.

The 740-page report rated the quality of research-doctorate programs at 169 public and 105 private institutions in the United States.

The study, which took four years to complete, was conducted by the Committee for the Study of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States, a group of distinguished faculty and university administrators appointed by the National Research Council.

The council is a private, non-profit organization that is the administrative arm for the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine.

"We are proud that Berkeley's faculty and PhD programs have again received top ratings in such a respected survey," said Joseph Cerny, vice chancellor--research and dean of the Graduate Division.

"About 8,000 of our faculty peers across the country did the rankings, and they know where the best work is being done."

"These rankings show clearly that Berkeley continues to deliver a top quality education and engages in cutting edge research," said Chancellor Tien.

"They are a tribute to the tremendous dedication of our faculty.

"The state and federal investments in this institution have definitely paid off."

Tien added that quality faculty also ensures a top-notch educational experience for undergraduates, both in the classroom and in their work as undergraduate researchers.

Unlike many other analyses of various aspects of higher education, this study is highly regarded by many members of the academic community.

Professors nationwide determined the rankings, and the survey was highly detailed, with assessments made using multiple criteria.

Faculty raters, working off a questionnaire, each judged various aspects of about 50 randomly selected programs.

They evaluated the research and publication activities of a program's faculty members and their contributions to the intellectual advancement of their field.

Each program's effectiveness in educating research scholars/scientists also was rated.

In addition, quantitative data were gathered on more than 30 criteria. These included the size of the program, the percentage of the faculty with federal research support, the size of library holdings, and the number of degrees attained by women and individuals in racial/ethnic groups.

The new report updates and broadens a 1982 study that also was sponsored by the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils, an ad hoc group consisting of the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Council on Education, the National Research Council and the Social Science Research Council.

While the 1982 study surveyed 32 fields and polled some 5,000 faculty members at 228 colleges and universities, the new study evaluates 41 fields and received responses from nearly 8,000 professors at 274 institutions.

Among the other findings:

o Berkeley's faculty received first place in Chemistry and in German Language & Literature and tied for first in English Language & Literature, Mathematics and in Statistics & Biostatistics. The faculty members were judged on their scholarly work, including research and publication activities.

o Berkeley had more PhD programs deemed "distinguished" for the scholarship of their faculty than any other institution. Of the 36 campus programs evaluated in the report, 32, or 89 percent, were given the top designation.

The data in the report have been analyzed in many ways, including by placing them on a bell curve, said Cerny. When these ratings are assessed in broad area groupings, he said, Berkeley's faculty ranked first for its scholarly contributions in both the arts and humanities and in the physical sciences; second in engineering; tied for third in social and behavioral sciences; and seventh in biological sciences.

Berkeley and MIT are the only schools in the report's top 10 whose PhD programs in biological sciences are not attached to a medical school.

Many recent changes in the size and structure of the research-doctorate enterprise in this country underscored the need for a follow-up to the 1982 study.

Since 1982, the number of universities offering doctoral degrees and the number of PhD programs at such institutions has increased, as has the number of students applying to, enrolling in and earning degrees from doctoral programs.

The ratings remained remarkably stable between 1982 and 1993, the year the most recent statistics were gathered. Of the 1,916 doctoral programs in 27 fields that appeared in both studies, 85 percent of those programs in the top quarter in 1982 appeared again in the top quarter in 1993.

In the 1982 study, Berkeley had more doctoral programs--30--in the top 10 than any other institution. Stanford took second place, with 24 programs on the list.

Altogether, the campus has 91 PhD programs.

Historically, Berkeley has awarded more PhDs than any other institution in the country. In 1993-94, the number of PhDs awarded by the campus hit an all-time high of 894.

The National Research Council is making data from the study available to researchers and educators electronically. Selected tables from the report are available from the council's World Wide Web home page at

The report, "Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change," is available from the National Academy Press. The cost is $59.95, plus shipping. Call 800 624-6242 to order.


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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