NRC Assessment of Research Doctoral Programs

NRC assessment: Overview

The National Research Council (NRC) Assessment of Research Doctoral Programs is a national effort to evaluate the quality of research doctoral programs across the United States. The assessment was conducted between 2005 and 2010; Stanford participated in the data gathering phase between Fall 2006 and Spring 2007. Nearly every U.S. doctoral program in each of 62 fields were rated. In all, the assessment covers 4,838 programs at 212 universities. This extensive analysis of the many aspects of graduate education is intended to provide data allowing comparisons among the similar programs. A previous NRC study of doctoral programs reported on data collected in 1995.

The NRC released the results of this analysis on Tuesday, September 28, 2010. Rankings and data are provided in Excel spreadsheets. This data is accompanied by narrative reports, a set of Frequently Asked Questions, and a revised version of the Methodology Guide.

IR&DS, in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, is producing summary and explanatory materials for use by university, school, and department faculty and staff; these are available below.

Stanford's NRC materials

Summary overview

The overview of the NRC assessment of research-doctorate programs, produced by IR&DS and VPGE, includes:

  • Summary of the study methodology
  • Explanation of the result format, which will be 'ranges of rankings' along five scales
  • Statement of the University's public position on the NRC Assessment
  • Stanford programs rated
  • Summary of variables included in ratings
  • NRC coordinators for each Stanford school
Overview of the NRC assessment of research doctorate programs [PDF]

Stanford programs rated

The document below provides a list of all Stanford programs rated, and the field in which it was assessed.

Stanford NRC programs rated [PDF]

Program data sheets

Data sheets with the data provided to the NRC by Stanford for each program were distributed to department chairs, deans, and school coordinators during the week of September 1. This sample sheet illustrates the format.

Sample program data sheet [PDF]

Frequently asked questions

The IR&DS and VPGE offices have put together answers to some common questions about the NRC assessment. These questions are below; the entire FAQ is available here.

  1. What is the NRC Assessment?
  2. How are the 2010 NRC rankings different than the 1995 rankings?
  3. What is Stanford’s public position on the rankings?
  4. Which Stanford programs are rated?
  5. What properties of programs are rated? What are the five different rankings?
  6. What does it mean that these are “ranges of rankings”?
  7. How well did Stanford do?
  8. How were the ranges of rankings calculated?
  9. How are these data defined? How can I check whether my program's’s data are correct?
  10. Where did the data come from? Who at Stanford vetted the data?
  11. These data don’t reflect the current state of my program. Can we update them?
  12. As a faculty member, I spent a lot of time filling out a faculty survey. Why are most of those items not included?
  13. Why isn’t my programs ranked at all?
  14. How can faculty and programs use the rankings?
  15. How can prospective graduate students use the rankings?
  16. How can current graduate students use the rankings?

Media coverage and data tools

Selected media coverage

The NRC rankings have attracted quite a bit of media coverage. Some prominent (and/or local!) articles are listed below.

Data access and tools

In addition to the full data set, which is downloadable as an Excel file directly from the NRC, the following organizations have built interactive interfaces for exploring the data in different ways.

  • Chronicle of Higher Education: See how each program's variable values compare to the field as a whole; compare programs within a field.
  • Prospective graduate students can assign their own weights to different variables to identify programs that are a good fit for their priorities.