v4/S21 Doctoral programs show gains since '82

Doctoral programs show gains since '82

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

A long-awaited report on doctoral education in the United States released this month indicates significant improvement for several Boston College graduate programs in terms of faculty quality and effectiveness in preparing scholars.

The National Research Council recently published Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change , an update and expansion of its 1982 study of doctoral programs. The original and current report was based on data provided by graduate schools, national databases on faculty research and graduate student progress, and a survey of nearly 8,000 university faculty members who were asked to rate and rank doctoral programs.

The programs were ranked in two categories: "Q," for the "scholarly quality of program faculty"; and "E," for the "program's effectiveness in educating research scholars and scientists."

The NRC report ranked the Theology Department doctoral program 17th among 38 nationally in both categories, while the program offered by the Economics Department was 43rd out of 107 in effectiveness. The Chemistry, History, English and Sociology doctoral programs were all ranked in or near the middle percentile in their respective categories.

Boston College administrators noted that many of the programs were ranked significantly lower by position or percentile in the 1982 report. For instance, the English doctoral program rose from 75th to 65th place and from the 23rd percentile to the 49th; the Economics doctoral program, meanwhile, climbed from 50th to 43rd in rank but from 40th to 60th in percentile. The University's willingness to invest in improvements for graduate education during the mid- and late-1980s, administrators said, and the increasing quality of faculty and other resources, help explain this rise.

"It is gratifying that the NRC's evaluation recognizes that many of our doctoral programs are taking their places among the leading graduate programs in the nation," said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties William B. Neenan, SJ. "This development confirms the emergence of Boston College's graduate programs alongside our traditional strength in undergraduate education."

Administrators pointed out that some of the University's doctoral programs have chosen to focus on a particular area or discipline, and therefore may be at a disadvantage in the national ranking system used by NRC. Also, some of the programs evaluated in the current report were not included in the 1982 listings.

"Ranking is an important part of the context of higher education in which Boston College works," said Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer. "It is something to which you must pay attention. If you take a 10-year view on this report, we have seen progress in all our doctoral programs, and this suggests that planning and implementing effective use of resources can have a positive effect.

"Clearly, judging from the recent US News & World Report surveys, we have some work to do to bring our graduate programs into the same tier as our undergraduate programs," he added. "I feel confident that our current planning efforts, especially those of the University Academic Planning Council, will help us achieve that goal."

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