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Publication Ranks Top Engineering Grad Schools

The University of California, Berkley
The University of California, Berkley, above, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are tied atop the list of best graduate programs in civil engineering as ranked by U.S News & World Report. Wikimedia Commons/Gku

U.S News & World Report’s annual list of engineering programs that award doctorate degrees is a who’s who of well-respected institutions.

March 18, 2014—U.S News & World Report recently released the 2015 list of best graduate schools, ranking programs in business, law, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The annual list details tuition, graduate enrollment, and the competitiveness of admissions.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology tops the overall list of engineering schools. Stanford University is second, followed by the University of California, Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University.

The magazine surveyed 212 engineering schools that grant doctoral degrees, and ranked the 193 that responded by weighting a series of measures. Quality assessment—a combination of peer evaluations and corporate recruiters’ subjective ratings of the school—contribute 40 percent of the total score. The remaining 60 percent of the score is derived from quantitative data on faculty resources, research activity, and acceptance rates.

The methodology was developed through consultations with academics and experts in the field of engineering education about which factors are most important in graduate education, says Samuel Flanigan, the deputy director of data research for U.S News & World Report.

“Then we had to consider what data we could actually ask of schools,” Flanigan says. “Unlike our college rankings, we could get employer information for these areas. We wanted to give weight to that. It was an acknowledgement that we thought the employer information was important.”

The publication further breaks down the engineering list by 12 specialties: aerospace, biological and agricultural, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, materials, mechanical, and nuclear.

The University of California, Berkley, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are tied atop the list of graduate programs in civil engineering. Stanford University and the University of Texas, Austin are tied at third, followed by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

For these specialty rankings, the publication relies extensively on peer assessments by surveying the heads of other civil engineering departments, Flanigan says. Compiling quantitative data for each of the specialties would greatly expand the scope of the research behind the rankings and some schools would likely be unable to provide data broken down to that level for some categories, Flanagan explains.

“I think to end up at the top of our overall engineering rankings, that indicates strength among several departments,” Flanigan notes. “If you look at the ones at our top 10, they have most, if not all, of the different departments that we have. Since 25 percent of our ranking model is based on research activity, the higher schools overall tend to have those higher research numbers. Which I think also gets reflected in the department [rankings].

The University of California, Berkeley is proud of its high ranking on the list, which “reflects the excellence of our faculty and our appeal to the top tier of engineering students,” said Karen L. Rhodes, the executive director of marketing and communications for the university, in written answers to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. “Professors and students alike come here to work with the best in their fields and make a tangible impact on real-world issues.”

Rhodes said the school has made research funding and faculty resources a top priority in the face of constrained state and federal funds, leveraging that money with private donations and industry partnerships. “This year alone, we brought 15 new faculty to the college with the help of start-up packages,” Rhodes said.

Stephen Monismith, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE, the chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Stanford University, said the list is filled with top-notch programs and the differences between them are subtle, each having different strengths.

“One particular strength of ours is an innovative set of professional master’s programs that nicely complement our Ph.D. program,” said Monismith, who wrote in response to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. Other strengths Monismith cited are “excellent students who challenge us every day, excellent faculty who are remarkably collegial, excellent facilities, and great support from our university.”

Sharon L. Wood, Ph.D., M.ASCE, the dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, said that although rankings don’t drive the school’s mission, the staff is proud to be listed among the top 10 overall engineering programs. The school ranks fourth on the list of civil engineering programs.

“That is a testament to the quality of our faculty and students, the impact of our research, and our national reputation for producing innovators and leaders in many industries,” Wood said in written answers to questions posed by Civil Engineering online.

“Our faculty and students conduct research that improves lives in the state of Texas, as well on national and global scales,” Wood said. “The Cockrell School is committed to providing extraordinary research opportunities for engineering faculty and students—with 13 graduate programs and 27 research centers and affiliated research units.”



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