October 05, 2010

Study gives high marks to SIUC doctoral programs

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- Doctoral programs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale fared well in study by a national organization that provides scientific, technologic and health policy advice under a congressional charter.

The National Research Council ranked many SIUC doctoral programs highly in several areas in its recent study, which looked at more than 200 institutions. SIUC programs compared favorably with those at traditionally prestigious universities, as well as state flagship institutions, University leaders said.

“This is another indicator of our faculty and staff commitment to providing a vibrant, meaningful and transformational educational experience for our doctoral students,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said. “The fact that enrollment in our doctoral programs has been increasing over the past four years speaks to the growing reputation of our Graduate School and University. What we learn from the data contained in the study will help us to further enhance our programs.”

John A. Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate School, said the study underscores that SIUC has “nationally competitive programs that provide a nurturing environment with faculty actively engaged in promoting student success.”

The NRC traces its roots to a charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It operates as part of the National Academy of Science and is one of four such organizations that provide expert advice in such areas. The NRC strives to improve government policy in research areas, increase public education and promote acquiring and disseminating knowledge.

The NRC conducted this survey of doctoral programs to provide a more comprehensive assessment of such programs than the popular ranking systems currently available, officials said.

The 21 SIUC doctoral programs included in the study did well, although University officials are still poring over the massive amount of data included in the survey. In particular, Koropchak said many SIUC doctoral programs ranked most highly in the student support/outcomes area, including time-to-degree and job placement measurements, in which some finished in the Top 10.

SIUC doctoral programs also ranked highly in faculty/student diversity.

The massive data collected by the NRC -- the third such survey it has conducted and the most thorough to date -- provides University leaders with a critical opportunity to discuss the importance of graduate education and the quality of doctoral programs. Unlike other ranking systems, the NRC study takes many factors into account.

For example, SIUC collected and contributed data for 21 programs during its 2005-06 academic years for the study.

Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, said prospective graduate students can use the data to help select the appropriate program for their needs.

“U.S. graduate schools prepare the highly skilled workforce necessary to participate and remain competitive in today’s knowledge-based economy. This NRC assessment provides important information about the quality of doctoral education which is so critical to our future,” Stewart said.