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Tech Grad Schools Top U.S. News List

By Alda Luong

For the twelfth straight year, MIT’s School of Engineering was ranked first in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual graduate school rankings.

Many other programs also came out on top in the magazine’s annual poll. Seven engineering departments along with the Departments of Mathematics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science placed first. The Department of Economics tied for first with Harvard and Stanford Universities.

MIT’s Sloan School of Management ranked a close fourth place, up one from last year. The top business school was Harvard University, followed by Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania.

Administrators were pleased with the results, and said the Institute should not soften its standards.

“We will live up to strong rankings by striving for excellence and never being complacent,” President Charles M. Vest said.

“We do believe that the [Engineering] School is one of the best in the world, so we do expect to do well in these polls,” said Thomas Magnanti, Dean of Engineering. “On the other hand, we shouldn’t be complacent.”

With a perfect score of 100, MIT’s Engineering School topped those of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley, which were ranked second and third, respectively. Stanford had an overall score of 90 and U.C. Berkeley scored 87.

The rankings are based on thousands of surveys sent out by U.S. News in the fall of 1999. Schools are scored in many categories in the disciplines of business, education, engineering, law, and medicine. Criteria included entering students’ test scores, the student/faculty ratio, reputation ratings from academic and nonacademic individuals, and “educational excellence,” which draws on factors such as research expenditure.

Poll’s worth questioned

Even though administrators were pleased with MIT’s high scores, they admit the poll, which ranks schools based on a few sets of numbers, are not the only measure of success.

The rankings “reasonably identify clusters of strong institutions, but the hair splitting of rank ordering them is not very meaningful,” Vest said.

“These surveys aren't perfect,” Magnanti said. “They at least provide us a perception of how well we are doing at least on the outside.”

Another concern is how much stock students and schools place on the much-anticipated results.

“Many constituencies, including prospective students, pay more attention to rankings than I would like,” Vest said. “Thus it is helpful when we are highly ranked, but it should never drive our decisions.”

Many departments ranked high

The seven top ranked engineering departments were: Aeronautics and Astronautics, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Nuclear Engineering.

The Departments of Chemistry and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences placed second. The departments of Biology and Physics were ranked third.

The rankings also rated specialty programs within each school. In Economics specialties, MIT was ranked first in Industrial Organization and in International Economics and second in Microeconomics.

In the specialties within the School of Management, MIT placed first in Management Information Systems, Production/Operations Management, and Quantitative Analysis.

Also, in the science specialty category, MIT ranked first in Inorganic Chemistry, Computer Science Hardware, Computer Science Artificial Intelligence, Geological Tectonics, Atomic/Molecular Physics, and Nuclear Physics; second in Biochemistry; fifth in Neurosciences; sixth in Genetics; and seventh in Cell Biology/ Developmental.