Editor’s Note: This page was updated on April 4, 2016, to reflect revised rankings. The U.S. News academic reputation rankings are shown as a third point of comparison.
On this page, we compare the aggregate ranking of 15 disciplines in both private elite universities and public universities. (Example: Harvard has 14 disciplines that are ranked, and the average national ranking across all 14 disciplines is 5.93, with Harvard having only one department ranked lower than 20th in the nation.) All universities below have aggregate departmental rankings of 52nd or higher.
Each university listed below offers business or engineering undergraduate majors and/or enough ranked graduate programs in other disciplines to qualify for at least 11 of the 15 ranked departments. Dartmouth, Caltech, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Wake Forest, Tufts, and a few other outstanding universities are not listed below because they are too specialized or do not have at least 11 rated departments. The departments ranked are business and engineering (undergrad); biology, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, economics, education, English, history, math, physics, political science, psychology, and sociology (graduate level).
(See list below.)
There are many elements that make a university strong, and U.S. News assigns a significant weight to academic reputation; but its rankings of academic departments, mostly on the graduate level, are not a part of the widely-read “Best Colleges” report each year. The departmental rankings, while still subjective, are probably a better measure.
On the other hand, the departmental rankings are based largely on the research reputation of the departments. Most parents and prospective students tend to assume that in the private elite schools with high departmental rankings, undergraduate students still have significant contact with leading professors. In practice, the amount of such contact varies.
In the case of public research universities, which of course have many more students, the access that non-honors students have to top professors and undergrad research opportunities may be quite limited. But for honors students, this kind of access is often a deliberate feature of the honors college or program. Therefore, honors students could benefit from paying close attention to comparing the rankings of academic departments, especially when the costs of attending a private elite are a major issue even after need-based aid is available.
It may come as a surprise that the updated information below shows that public universities compete very strongly against leading private institutions when it comes to the rankings of academic departments. Some of the private schools have lower overall rankings because they offer courses in engineering and education disciplines–traditionally more established in public universities. For example, the aggregate ranking for Harvard would be 4.3 if engineering (ranked 27th) were excluded. Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) would have an aggregate ranking of 28.08 if education (ranked 78th) were excluded.
On the other hand, universities such as Chicago are not penalized because they lack programs in engineering or education.
Twelve of the 53 schools on the list below have no academic department ranked lower than 30th in the nation. The private elites in this group are Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, and Johns Hopkins; the public universities in the group are UC Berkeley, Michigan, Wisconsin, UCLA, and UT Austin.
Below is a list of 53 national universities that have an average departmental ranking of 52 or better. Universities are listed in rank order according to their average departmental ranking, followed by the academic reputation ranking, and then followed by the U.S. News overall ranking.
|University||Dep Rank||Rep Rank||USN Rank|
|46||Rutgers New Bruns||45.8||57||72|
|47||Stony Brook SUNY||46.23||70||89|