Strong Showing for Dartmouth’s Doctoral Programs in National Research Council Assessment


The National Research Council (NRC) released on September 28, 2010, its first assessment of doctoral programs at U.S. colleges and universities since 1995. The report analyzed data on more than 5,000 doctoral programs in 62 fields from 212 institutions during the 2005–06 academic year. The report provides two different ranges of ranking for each program, one based largely on peer assessment (the “R” ranking) and another based on quantitative metrics (the “S” ranking).

Eleven of Dartmouth’s doctoral programs met the criteria to be included in the NRC rankings. Based on either S or R assessment, the upper boundary of the ranking ranges of four programs—Computer Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Physiology—placed within the top 10 rankings nationally. Additionally, the ranges of two programs—Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Psychological and Brain Sciences—placed within the top 20 rankings.

Other programs’ ranges included the top 10 or 20 rankings in sub-categories for research, for student support, and for diversity. Notably, six Dartmouth programs were within the top 10 and eight were within the top 20 in the broad and important category of student support and student outcomes.

Christopher Lowrey (left), professor of medicine and of pharmacology and toxicology, and Elizabeth R. Macari, PhD candidate in pharmacology and toxicology. The upper boundary of the ranking ranges of Dartmouth’s doctoral program in pharmacology and toxicology placed within the top 10 rankings nationally in the National Research Council’s new assessment. (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

“It is always a pleasure to see the high quality and productivity of Dartmouth’s doctoral programs recognized nationally,” says Provost Carol Folt. “We have a very talented faculty and student body. They compete well with the best programs in the country and their research clearly has a strong national influence. Beyond that, Dartmouth also is committed to providing students excellent support, innovative professional opportunities, and a high level of access to top faculty across the institution.”

The NRC evaluated doctoral programs according to 20 measures. Of these, the most influential were four per capita faculty metrics of research activity (annual publications, citations per paper, percent faculty with grants, and prestigious awards) and student financial support and outcomes. The relative importance of the measures was determined by a national survey of more than 87,000 faculty members.

“This assessment survey reflects the rigorous and rewarding academic experience Dartmouth faculty provide to our doctoral students,” says Brian Pogue, dean of graduate studies. “I am especially pleased to see Dartmouth ranking so highly for student support and outcomes throughout the majority of our programs. Over the last decade, we have focused on improving student support in many areas, including health care benefits, competitive stipends, family leave, housing, and professional development.”

The NRC report provides comparative data for institutional self-study. Says Folt, “These detailed data are a rich resource for self-assessment. We will draw on this information in our ongoing efforts to evaluate and strengthen our programs.” Visit the NRC website to view the complete report.

Dartmouth has approximately 1,700 graduate students in Dartmouth Medical School, Thayer School of Engineering, the Tuck School of Business, and 20 graduate programs in the Arts and Sciences, 16 of which grant doctoral degrees. Based on NRC program definitions, data from programs in Immunology and Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Genetics were combined with Molecular and Cellular Biology for this assessment. Data from the Cognitive Neuroscience program were combined with Psychological and Brain Sciences. Dartmouth’s doctoral program in engineering sciences did not receive a ranking because there were not enough comparable programs nationally to meet NRC criteria.

The National Research Council is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The four organizations are collectively referred to as the National Academies. The NRC’s mission is to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public education and understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health.

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Latarsha Gatlin