The National Research Council (NRC) Survey of Doctoral Program

The National Research Council (NRC) Survey of Doctoral Program

The National Research Council (NRC) has reported the results of its latest project to assess U.S. research doctorate programs. This is the most comprehensive survey of research doctorate programs in the United States. The NRC has reported data for 5,000 programs at 212 different institutions across 62 fields of study. Each participating university provided data at an institutional level, at the program level and at the faculty level. Additionally, students in five selected fields were invited to complete questionnaires regarding their programs.

The assessment offers data for each program on 20 characteristic variables:

    • Publications per allocated faculty member
    • Citations per publication
    • Percent faculty with grants
    • Percent faculty Interdisciplinary
    • Percent non-Asian minority faculty
    • Percent female faculty
    • Awards per allocated faculty
    • Average GRE-Q
    • Percent 1st-yr. students with full support
    • Percent 1st-yr. students with external funding
    • Percent non-Asian minority students
    • Percent female students
    • Percent international students
    • Average Ph.D.s 2002 to 2006
    • Percent completing within 6 years
    • Time to degree
    • Percent students in academic positions
    • Student work space
    • Health insurance
    • Number of student activities offered

The assessment also illustrates how the data can be used to rank the quality of programs based on the importance of particular characteristics to various users. It does not include an authoritative declaration of the 'best program' in given fields, as the study committee concluded that no single such ranking can be produced in an unambiguous and rigorous way. Rather, to illustrate how the data can be used to assess and compare the quality of programs, the report offers five sets of rankings of programs in each field. These illustrative rankings should not be interpreted as definitive conclusions about the relative quality of doctoral programs, nor are they endorsed as such by the National Research Council. Rather, they demonstrate how the data can be used to rank programs based on the importance of particular characteristics to various users – in this case, to faculty at participating institutions.

The approach used to generate the illustrative rankings incorporates both data on program characteristics and faculty values. For each program, the study analyzed data on 20 characteristics, "weighing" the data according to the characteristics valued most by faculty in that field. The rankings are given in broad ranges rather than as single numbers, to reflect some of the uncertainties inherent in any effort to rank programs by quality.

The full set of illustrative rankings includes overall rankings based on weights of characteristic variables determined from a direct survey that asked faculty to rate the importance of the 20 different program characteristics in determining the quality of a program (S weights). In addition, a second set of rankings is based on an indirect way of determining the importance faculty attach to various characteristics. First, groups of randomly selected faculty were asked to rate the quality of a sample of representative programs in their field. Based on the sample program ratings, weights were assigned to each of the 20 characteristics using statistical techniques (R weights). Additional rankings are based on research activity, student support and outcomes and diversity of the academic environment.

Davis Coordination

Jeffery Gibeling, Dean of Graduate Studies, was designated to serve as the UC Davis Institutional Coordinator (IC) for this project. In that capacity, he is the campus liaison to the NRC. In July 2006, each eligible program was asked to name a Program Responder (faculty or staff) who will serve as the principal contact person for that program.

The Office of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with other campus units, will provide a series of reports in which the data from the NRC are analyzed to inform continuing efforts to improve graduate education. Meetings with program faculty to discuss the results in detail will be scheduled throughout the 2010-11 academic year.

This Website

The purpose of this website is to provide local information for those programs who have accepted the invitation to participate in the NRC study. Additional information is available from the NRC at http://www.nap.edu/rdp/.

Who Participates?

Two committees were formed in Spring 2006. The NRC Assessment Policy Group chaired by Graduate Dean Jeff Gibeling, helps shape the campus response by providing guidance and assistance on the interpretation of the assessment guidelines and to develop strategies for organizing the data which the campus submits. The second committee, the NRC Assessment Advisory Group, chaired by Helen Frasier, former Director of Analysis and Policy, provides guidance and assistance in assembling the data requested and advice on data sources, data verification, and responses by programs, faculty and students. The Advisory Group also acts as an advocate for completion of the assessment.