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A Rating of Graduate Programs

reviewed by A. Stephen Higgins - 1972

coverTitle: A Rating of Graduate Programs
Author(s): Kenneth D. Roose, Charles J. Anderson
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: , Pages: , Year:
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Comparisons among our universities are an everyday process. Whether it is desirable or not, evaluations are being made by faculty, by graduate students, by federal agencies, and foundations, among others. Assessments may be based on reasoned judgment, on piecemeal reviews, or on nothing more than superficial impressions, often lacking supporting quantitative and qualitative data.

Given the quantity and diverse quality of our institutions, it is inevitable that questions of prestige and reputation will arise. Numerous "reflectors" of these elusive attributes can be found: accreditation, the success of an institution's graduates, its faculty's attainments—fellowships, research awards, publications. These reflectors are often considered to be objective standards; however, on closer inspection, they are subjective assessments once removed, qualitative opinions derived from quantitative data. In the process of accreditation, or the measurement of success, or the achievements of the faculty, objectivity is the cry; but, ultimately, the measurement is subjective, even if based upon the best available information. Therefore, only reasonable people will produce reasonable evaluations. This suggests that, operationally, the assessment of a doctoral program is what knowledgeable people think of it. In any such assessment, consideration should be given to the combined judgments of a group of scholars who are teaching in university programs.

This is exactly what the Roose and Anderson study has done. As a follow-up to the famous (or infamous) Cartter report published by the American Council on Education in 1966, the authors sent almost 8,100 questionnaires in the spring of 1969 to senior and junior scholars and department chairmen in thirty-six disciplines at 130 institutions. The 6,093 respondents rated the "quality of the graduate faculty" as being distinguished, strong, good, adequate, marginal, or not sufficient for doctoral training at each institution offering doctoral work in their own discipline. They were also able to indicate that they had insufficient information to judge. A second question asked the rater to assess the effectiveness of the doctoral programs in his discipline as "if you were selecting a graduate school to work for the doctorate today." With a few exceptions (notably Columbia University) the rank-order positions of programs on these two questions, originally designed to avoid the charge that the survey was just a popularity poll, did not differ to a large degree.

The highest ranked programs in each of the thirty-six doctoral areas are presented in a series of tables, and the results from the first question are compared with the Cartter rankings and the 1957 Keniston ratings of department chairmen (Graduate Study and Research in the Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania). The results from a third question on "your estimate of the change that has taken place in the quality of graduate education in your field in the last five years at the institutions on the survey form" are also listed in the study.

This study may very well have more impact on graduate education than the Cartter report since it has been published at a time when we are seriously concerned with the financing of all higher education, when emerging universities are preoccupied with what Mayhew has called "the virus of graduate and advanced professional work," and when undergraduate programs have been neglected in favor of an over-production of research doctorates in many fields. It will be rather difficult to justify and support additional doctoral programs at any institution now, particularly when Roose and Anderson imply that almost one-third of the existing programs could be eliminated. Indeed, they conclude that a major purpose of their survey is to protect the potential consumer of graduate education from inadequate programs. (30 percent of the programs are classified as marginal or inadequate.)

The authors disclaim the notion that their's is an assessment of quality, but term it an "appraisal of faculties and programs as reflected by their reputations." However, the data may be less subjective than is generally assumed—if it is legitimate to suggest that the greater the uniformity of the data the greater the likelihood that they are descriptive of actual programs. And, unfortunately, the first and most overwhelming conclusion that can be drawn is that too many poor and unnecessary programs are continuing to develop in too great an abundance.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 74 Number 1, 1972, p. 115-116
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 1558, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 9:09:06 AM

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