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Office of News & Public Affairs

NRC Survey Showcases Growing Strengths of BC Doctoral Programs

Chestnut Hill, Mass. (9-28-10)—A new assessment of doctoral programs shows Boston College’s continuing ascent into the top tiers of American research universities in the quality of its faculty and students.  

The National Research Council (NRC), which reviews 5,000 doctorate programs at 222 of the leading research institutions in the United States every decade, released its long-awaited findings today.  Boston College’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the Connell School of Nursing’s PhD program participated in the latest NRC rankings, with both schools achieving high levels of success, particularly in areas of University strategic investment. Most noteworthy, administrators observed, the NRC data indicated high faculty research productivity and highly competitive doctoral programs, with BC doctoral students scoring in the upper reaches of the Graduate Record Exam. 


According to Candace Hetzner, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences associate dean for academic affairs, the NRC study showcased Boston College’s excellence in doctoral education not only in University mission-based programs such as Theology and Philosophy, but also in Psychology, Economics, English, Chemistry and Physics.

“The NRC results indicate that Boston College is reaping the dividends of its sound investment in doctoral education over the past two decades,” said Hetzner. “The University’s investments in the mid-1990’s in strategic funds for Theology and the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, as well as Economics and Philosophy, contributed to high ratings on various dimensions of the new NRC report, especially with regard to faculty scholarly output and student GRE scores.”

The Connell School of Nursing experienced similar success in its doctoral program, according to Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Patricia Tabloski. “We are pleased with the success of the Connell School among the 52 nursing PhD programs included in the NRC analysis, and especially in the area of support for our doctoral students,” said Tabloski, who noted that since the data-gathering period, the school has undergone continued growth, hired as dean an internationally regarded nurse researcher and educator in Susan Gennaro, recruited several new faculty, formed collaborative relationships with the Harvard Catalyst Consortium, enhanced research opportunities for faculty and PhD students, and increased the number of electives in its PhD program to enhance scholarship opportunities for students.

The 2010 NRC study differs in its methodology from its earlier assessments in 1982 and 1993, as well as from those of most organizations that evaluate academic program quality, administrators said. The NRC, for example, chose not to rank institutions based on institutional reputation, but rather by analyzing data such as the numbers of faculty publications and awards, the extent of doctoral student funding, time to degree, and diversity of student population.  In addition, in perhaps its biggest departure from traditional evaluations, the NRC declined to provide a specific ranking for each program and instead located all programs within a range of rankings, making this year’s NRC results incomparable to earlier NRC studies.   

The new NRC methodology has generated a fair amount of controversy among universities and the media, including criticisms that the survey is based on outdated information gathered more than five years ago. To counter the criticism, the NRC has made its assessment publicly available on its website and offered a wealth of data for a variety of uses by prospective students as well as research universities. The data can be accessed beginning at 1:00 p.m. EST on September 28 at

--Boston College Office of News & Public Affairs