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College and University Rankings  

Last Updated: Nov 3, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Proceed with Caution!


Few topics in education are as controversial as college and university rankings.

There are as many ranking methods as ranking sources. Different sources have different goals – some are academic and others focus on campus social life, school location or some aspect of the curriculum. There is a significant community of doubters who think that the data does not really reflect quality and that schools can fudge the data for a higher rating. It is very difficult to compare across rankings.

Here are some articles that discuss the controversy in ranking schemes and lists.

Problems with Rankings?

  • CRELL: Critiquing Global University Rankings and their Methodologies
    A short article critiquing two major methodologies of ranking universities and their academic output. (27 January, 2009)
  • President's Statement on College Rankings
    A statement by the President of Amherst College, co-signed by a number of other college presidents, warning of the "false sense that educational success or fit can be ranked in a single numerical list." (7 September, 2007)
  • Rankings Face Backlash From College Presidents
    "What if they created a college rankings system and nobody participated? That question is growing increasingly relevant as a burgeoning number of college presidents say they are fed up with U.S. News & World Report's popular annual feature . . . ." (4 September, 2007)
  • The Cost of Bucking College Rankings
    The President of Sarah Lawrence College contends that if her college refuses to supply data to The U.S. News & World Report: ". . . we will be harmed because many students will assume that Sarah Lawrence is much less selective than it actually is." (11 March, 2007)
  • The Story of Academic Rankings
    "Any ranking is controversial, and no ranking is absolutely objective. . . . Whether universities and other stakeholders agree, ranking systems clearly are here to stay. The key issue then becomes how to improve ranking systems and how to use their results properly. Ranking methodologies should always be examined carefully before looking at any ranking lists, and ranking results should be used with caution." (2009)
  • Wikipedia: College Rankings
    Gathers sites worldwide with links to rankings and lists.
  • The US News rankings are terrible for students. Why don't colleges stop them?
    "The US News rankings are influential. Studies have found they impact both where students apply and where they actually attend. That strong influence may explain why colleges aren't always honest when they tell US News about themselves." (2014)
  • Making Money Shouldn't Be the Purpose of a College Education
    "Colleges are not monoliths that can be reliably judged by the sort of aggregate data the rankings systems employ. They have strengths and weaknesses, which make any given college the right choice for certain students, and the wrong one for others." (2014)

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