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MIT's School of Engineering, seven engineering departments and the Department of Economics were ranked first and the MIT Sloan School of Management was ranked third in the "America's Best Graduate Schools Guidebook" published by US News and World Report.
For the School of Engineering, five engineering departments and the economics department, it continued a clean-sweep tradition. They have been ranked tops in their field every time US News has ranked their academic disciplines -- 10 times for the School of Engineering, nine times in the engineering fields and three times in economics.
It was the ninth consecutive year of top rankings for the School of Engineering and the departments of aeronautics and astronautics, chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering.
MIT also ranked number one this year in computer engineering (eight times in nine years) and electrical engineering (seven times in nine years). MIT ranked third in civil engineering (which had been first in 1995), sixth in environmental engineering and tied for 10th in industrial/manufacturing engineering.
In the humanities, which are ranked every third year, MIT's Department of Economics continued its three-for-three sweep, winning top ranking in 1998 as it did in 1995 and 1992, when economics departments were first ranked by US News. MIT tied for number one in economics with Harvard, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.
In specialty areas within economics departments, MIT was tops in industrial organization and tied with Harvard for first in international economics. MIT was number two in microeco-nomics, and number three in macro-economics and in public finance. In political science, MIT ranked eighth. In psychology, which at MIT is represented through the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT ranked 12th.
In the annual ranking of 300 graduate business schools, the Sloan School's overall score of 99 put it just one point away from Harvard and Stanford, which tied for first. With two schools ranked first, Sloan was reported by US News in a three-way tie for third rather than second place with University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and Columbia.
"Sloan has consistently ranked among the best schools -- in the top four -- for five years in a row," said Sloan School Dean Glen Urban. Sloan was first in 1995 and second in 1994 and 1996, and it has always been among the top six schools in the 10 years of rankings, which started in 1987 and have been issued every year since 1990.
In business school specialties, Sloan was again ranked number one in two fields: production/operations and management information systems. It was ranked fifth in finance and eighth in entrepreneurship. Sloan was ranked second among all 300 schools in two areas -- reputation among deans and directors of other business schools, and student selectivity (based on GMAT scores, undergraduate grade point average and the proportion of applicants who are accepted.)
The graduate school guidebook also publishes rankings of disciplines that are reviewed once every three years. In the 1996 science ratings, MIT ranked number one in biological science, computer science, mathematics and physics, and second in chemistry and geology. In 1997 rankings of arts, MIT's School of Architecture ranked second.
In the 10 rankings since 1987, MIT has had one or more top rankings for 12 departments (in 13 fields) and for the schools of engineering and management.
The US News ratings continue to be controversial. They use a mathematical formula of many factors, based on both objective facts and subjective measures such as reputation. This year, there were more ties because US News rounded the grades to single digits, abandoning the oft-criticized notion that it was meaningful to say that one school with a cumulative score of 99.8 was of significantly higher quality than a school with a cumulative score of 99.7.
Five major fields are ranked annually: business, education, engineering, law and medicine. Schools in other disciplines, such as science and humanities, are ranked by reputation only, generally every three years. US News, in an article entitled, "Why Rank?", said in its defense that a study by the provost's office at the University of Arizona and a higher education consultant in Virginia concluded that "the US News disciplinary ratings are just as credible as those produced by the NRC [National Research Council] using a much more elaborate methodology."
The NRC published rankings in 1982 and 1995 (see MIT Tech Talk, September 20, 1995).
Much of the graduate school guidebook was published Friday on the Web at US News Online and was scheduled to be delivered to newsstands this week.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 25, 1998.