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The University of Alabama

UA Doctoral Programs Rank High in Student Support, Outcomes

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Twelve University of Alabama doctoral programs rank high nationally for student support and outcomes in the 2010 National Research Council rankings announced today.

Using measures including financial support of students, the percentage of students completing their degrees and time necessary to complete degrees, the 12 UA programs finished among the top quartile of schools nationally in the Council’s Student Support and Outcomes measurement.

The complex ranking system, revamped since its last release in 1995, looked at data from more than 5,000 doctoral programs at 221 institutions. It measured 20 variables that fit into three dimensions: research activity of faculty, student support and outcomes, and diversity of the academic environment. Rather than assigning a specific rank to the programs, the Council grouped programs in the three categories with other programs deemed comparable.

Five UA doctoral programs – mass communication, chemistry, mechanical engineering, physics and psychology – all finished ranked among the top 25 to 40 percent nationally in all three dimensions. UA’s chemistry program, for example, ranked on par with programs at Ohio State University, Clemson, Notre Dame and the University of Virginia. 

Biological sciences, chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, computer science, English, political science and the joint materials science (with UAB and UAH) and the materials/metallurgical engineering (with UAB) programs, ranked in the middle range of programs of the same discipline.

“We are very pleased that the 2010 NRC Assessment recognizes the many high quality doctoral programs UA offers its students, and the results will allow us to fine-tune quality improvements over the next several years,” said Dr. David Francko, associate provost, dean of the graduate school and UA’s institutional coordinator for the assessment.

“We are particularly gratified the assessment recognizes UA’s national leadership in the categories of ‘doctoral student support and outcomes’ and ‘diversity of the academic environment,’ ” Francko said.

Eight of UA’s 15 stand-alone programs, and two of three joint programs, that were evaluated ranked in the first quartile for doctoral student and faculty diversity among national peers.

Perhaps the best news, Francko said, is the progress UA has made since 2006, as the rankings reflect only data from 2000-2006.

In addition to an overall enrollment increase of 27 percent since 2006, UA graduate student enrollment has increased more than 20 percent and doctoral student enrollment – a key variable in the council’s ranking matrix – has increased by 29 percent.

“Both of these graduate enrollment increases are among the best in the country,” Francko said. “UA has added 15 percent more core research faculty to its doctoral departments since 2006, and faculty extramural grant awards have increased by 40 percent over the last three years, both key quality indicators used in the ‘research activity of faculty’ quality measure.”

“Supportive, diverse doctoral programs, rapid time-to-degree, high graduation rates, high placement of graduates and other measures of excellent student support and success are key to recruiting the best, brightest and most diverse group of new graduate students and graduate faculty to the Capstone,” Francko said.

The ranking did not include Doctor of Education programs or doctoral programs in business, education, social work and many other disciplines, so only 18 of UA’s 42 doctoral programs were evaluated.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.