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NRC: UCSB History graduate program ranks in top 10 nationally

The new National Research Council study puts our program squarely among the very best in the nation.

Update Sept. 14, 2011: US News & World Report ranked UCSB as the no. 10 public university in the nation: UCSB Ranked Top University.

The National Research Council recently announced the results of a new study of Ph.D. programs in the United States. Based on data collected in 2005-06, the latest NRC study is the most complete and comprehensive study of doctoral programs ever undertaken. For each doctoral program, the NRC compiled data about faculty publishing rates, interdisciplinary collaboration, racial and ethnic diversity (both faculty and students), student funding, placement success, and a variety of other variables. All together, the NRC analyzed a quarter million data points.

For the UCSB History department, one result of this massive study stands clear: we are among the best departments in the nation.

As befitting a complex scholarly study, the NRC did not provide an exact ranking, but rather a range of possibilities of where any particular department would be ranked depending on how various facets of individual programs are weighted. Within the discipline of history, UCSB’s range was 6-18, which puts us solidly in the top ten when compared to the ranges of all the other departments. By way of comparison, Harvard was the top department with a range of 1-7. What makes our department’s performance even more impressive is that three of the departments ahead of us are specialized programs in the history of science or medieval studies. It should be kept in mind that NRC reviewed 138 history departments, so the competition was intense.

To get a sense of just how well the department performed, consider that UCSB was the top performing department in the UC system. Indeed, UCSB was top history department of all public schools, with UNC Chapel Hill coming in second. UCSB ranked ahead of traditional powerhouses such as Columbia, Yale, and Stanford, despite the superior resources such private institutions provide faculty members and graduate students.

How did UCSB manage to do so well? We ranked near the top of the nation in terms of research output, and we also did well in student diversity, interdisciplinary breadth, and the provision of student academic services (such as teaching training and seminars in professional development). Given the large number of high profile book awards and major fellowships that our faculty has won over the last five years, it is likely that our rank would be even higher now.

Our high ranking in the NRC study is significantly better than in typical surveys, which are biased in favor of very large programs. Indeed, the NRC provided such a traditional measure (called the “R-Ranking”), in which the size of the program was weighted a whopping 18 percent (research output and diversity, by way of contrast, hardly mattered at all in the R-Rankings). Yet even using the skewed R-rankings, UCSB was still in the top 25 and number 3 in the UC system (behind Berkeley and UCLA, which have far more History graduate students than UCSB).

No single survey is perfect, of course, and scholars will debate the nuances of NRC report for many months to come. Yet no matter how you analyze the data, UCSB ranks as a rising star. The department is rightfully proud that its highly productive faculty and outstanding students are gaining the recognition they deserve.

press release by Department chair John Majewski

hm 10/5/10, 9/14/11