A leading research organization gave the GW Political Science Department doctoral program a top-tier ranking last week, but because of the council’s dated data, the University says the rankings fail to reflect the department’s growth.
Of the 106 political science departments analyzed, the National Research Council ranked GW’s department as No. 14 and No. 24 on two of the council’s lists.
Kimberly Morgan, director of graduate studies for the Political Science Department, said her department was pleased with the rankings but said they continue to be a flawed measure of the department’s worth.
Members of the academic community have criticized the overall rankings for using outdated information and for presenting findings in a confusing and inarticulate format, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“There’s no doubt that rankings are always flawed; they capture some salient information but miss other things,” Morgan said. “One criticism is that the data is already old, having been collected in 2005-2006. We feel that our faculty and graduate program has gotten better in the meantime and that the rankings do not capture this.”
University Provost Steven Lerman said the rankings are somewhat unreliable. Over the past three years, Lerman worked on submitting data to the NRC while serving as dean for graduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before coming to GW in July.
“While the data in the NRC study might be of some value in providing broad guidance on where to apply, anyone using the study should be aware that the data the NRC used is now somewhat out of date,” Lerman said. “The NRC’s ranking methodologies are complex and combine numerous factors, many of which may be entirely irrelevant to any single applicant.”
For this set of rankings, the NRC created two sets of rankings to measure the programs: survey-based and regression-based. According to the regression-based rankings – where professors were asked to rank different programs in their field – GW placed No. 24 in the nation. According to the survey-based rankings – which asked professors to rank various factors that were important in their program – GW earned a ranking of 14th in the nation.
In the ranking released by the NRC 15 years ago, when they only had one set of rankings instead of two, the department was ranked 47th overall in the nation
Despite the rankings’ imperfections, Morgan said it is important to note that the Political Science Department was recognized for being a quality institution for doctoral candidates.
“We are a top 20 program, and on some measures, such as research productivity of the faculty, we are in the top 10,” Morgan said.