USC doctoral programs gain in ratings, prestige
A recent national report shows that the University of South Carolina is home to some of the South’s best doctoral programs in engineering and arts and sciences, with several programs earning national recognition.
According to the detailed report released by the National Research Council, USC’s electrical engineering program ranks seventh nationally among public and private universities in the assessment that objectively measures program quality and sixth in faculty research productivity. It is ranked No. 1 in the South in both areas. Three programs in USC’s College of Engineering and Computing are ranked in the top 10 in the Southern region.
Also, the university’s geography Ph.D. program is second in the South and 10th nationally. The history Ph.D. program is ranked seventh in the South and 36th nationally, and biological sciences are eighth in the South and 29th nationally.
Some of USC’s other programs in the top 50 nationally: chemistry (47); chemical engineering (29); comparative literature (22); English (26); mechanical engineering (31); and pharmacy (41).
“This rise in national and international stature reflects the evolution of the University of South Carolina from a largely regional teaching university to a nationally recognized research institution,” said Dr .Michael Amiridis, USC vice president for academic affairs and provost.
The report assessed more than 5,000 doctoral programs at 212 institutions around the country. It does not include law, medicine, business and education programs.
“These rankings speak to both the quality and the breadth of the programs at the University of South Carolina,” Amiridis said. “It is important for a large, comprehensive university like ours to have strong programs in all areas, including humanities, social sciences, life and physical sciences and engineering.”
In 1993, the last year that NRC issued its assessment, 16 USC doctoral programs were ranked nationally, with only three in top 50. The latest report includes 25 nationally ranked programs, with 14 in the top 50.
Dr. Tim Mousseau, USC’s associate vice president for research and graduate education and interim dean of the graduate school, said the increase is a measure of USC’s quality and prestige.
“The study shows we are a nationally competitive institution with many highly ranked programs,” Mousseau said. “We have dramatically improved in many of our programs in the last 15 years. This is striking. A number of our programs are among the best in the region and in the top 50 in the nation, and this will be a tremendous help with our ability to recruit top students and faculty in the future.”
The NRC report, which evaluated 62 academic fields, is a sequel to the group's 1995 rankings of doctoral programs and is based on different methodology from the previous effort. The 1995 report was primarily based on reputation surveys, while the new assessment attempts to measure objective characteristics, including areas such as the amount of time it takes a student to earn a degree and publications per faculty member.
USC leaders attributed the progress to the quality of faculty hired since the early 1990s, reflected in the high rankings for faculty research accomplishments.
“This change can largely be attributed to university, state and federal investments in our research and our initiative to hire the very best faculty,” Amiridis said.
USC’s research funding climbed to a record $218.8 million in fiscal-year 2010 – a 4-percent increase over the previous year and 26 percent higher than five years ago. USC also is one of only 63 public universities listed by the Carnegie Foundation in the highest tier of research institutions in the United States and the only university in the state with that designation.
The strides made by USC are expected to have a direct impact on the economic development efforts of the state and the region.
“Companies looking to start a new facility or relocate an existing one are frequently interested in collaborative efforts with the university’s research enterprise,” Amiridis said. “Therefore, we expect that the progress made by the University of South Carolina in the science and engineering fields will have a positive impact on economic development efforts.”
About the National Research Council report
The National Research Council has compiled data on more than 5,000 doctoral programs in 62 fields at 212 universities. The report includes information on a wide range of characteristics, including faculty research productivity, institutional support for students and diversity of faculty and students.
This is the first assessment by the NRC since 1995. Earlier NRC reports were based heavily on reputation surveys, and programs were simply ranked in order.
The new assessment attempts to measure objective characteristics. The report gives each program two types of rankings – one based on faculty opinions of the relative importance of the various program factors (called S-rankings, for Survey), and one based on a regression analysis linking reputational scores to the program factors (R-rankings, for Regression-based). The assessment also includes an RA indicator, which is a measure of average faculty scholarship activity.
The report can be viewed at http://www.nap.edu/rdp.