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UW-Madison drops slightly in 2008 U.S. News rankings

August 17, 2007 By Ellen Page

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is ranked eighth among public institutions in annual rankings released today (Aug. 17) by U.S. News and World Report’s 2008 edition of America’s Best Colleges.

The university also tied for 38th out of 258 national doctoral universities, according to the report. Last year, UW–Madison ranked seventh among public institutions and 34th among national doctoral institutions.

"National rankings like these are just one of many factors that students and their families should consider when choosing the right university," says UW–Madison Provost Patrick Farrell. "While we slipped slightly in the rankings this year, UW–Madison is consistently cited among the nation’s best public research universities in this and numerous other national surveys. That reputation is important to the entire state of Wisconsin and is something we must strive to protect."

The rankings also highlighted "programs to look for," a category in which administrators nominated novel student-service programs. Institutions aren’t ranked in the category but are listed according to number of mentions. In the most recent report, UW–Madison received the most mentions for its learning communities, which are programs, frequently based in residence halls, that create greater integration between academics and campus life. UW–Madison has 10 residential learning communities and 28 first-year interest groups built around academic courses.

Engineering and business schools also were ranked in this year’s report. The School of Business ranked 12th and the College of Engineering ranked 13th among all doctoral institutions and seventh among public doctoral-granting institutions. The School of Business’s ranking was unchanged from last year; the College of Engineering dropped from 12th last year. The chemical engineering program and the real estate and insurance/risk management programs were named among the top five in their areas.

U.S. News and World Report uses several criteria to determine overall rankings, including peer assessment, student selectivity, faculty resources, financial resources, graduation and retention rates, graduation performance rate and alumni giving.

A downward trend in the faculty resources ranking for UW–Madison does raise cause for concern, Farrell says. This category measures faculty-student ratios, percentage of doctorate-holders in the classroom, class sizes and faculty compensation. UW–Madison’s ranking has dropped from 60th in 2004 to 74th in the current rankings. U.S. News does not reveal its compensation calculations, but it would likely account for the decline because all other UW–Madison data in this category has remained relatively constant.

"To an extent, these faculty resources rankings mirror some of the challenges we have faced with offering competitive salaries and retaining our best faculty," Farrell says. "The overall quality indicator in these rankings, peer assessment, would place us much higher in this list, but low rankings in areas like faculty resources reduce our overall ranking. One interpretation is that UW–Madison is very effective in providing a high quality education with fewer resources than our peers."