Campus News

UK Doctoral Programs Jump in Rankings

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2010) –In the nearly 15 years since higher education reform in the Commonwealth, several of the University of Kentucky’s doctoral and research programs have risen dramatically in national prominence, according an independent analysis of programs across the country released today.

Specifically, UK houses three doctoral programs ranked in the top 25 percent, compared to only one program in the top 25 percent in 1993. UK had 12 other programs in the top 50 percent in the 2006 survey results released today as well. In 1993, UK had a total of only six programs in the top 50 percent.  

Programs in the study released today were ranked based on data from 2005-06 collected through questionnaires sent to those identified as doctoral faculty by their institutions, as well as through questionnaires sent to heads of doctoral programs, administrators and students.

The analysis is conducted by the National Research Council (NRC), an independent organization under the auspices of the National Academies, whose aim is to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public education and understanding and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology and health.

Through its analysis, the NRC seeks to provide a comprehensive and quantitative assessment of doctoral programs. Many other rankings of such programs are based largely on reputational surveys among universities.

By contrast, the NRC analysis assessment examines data from more than 5,000 doctoral programs in 62 fields at 212 universities, including information on faculty research productivity, institutional support for students and the diversity of faculty and students, among other characteristics.

Today’s release of results was the third NRC study since the assessments began in 1982, with the last ranking done in 1993. Kentucky’s higher education reforms were adopted in 1997. As part of those reforms, UK was mandated to become a Top 20 public research institution.

"UK’s faculty has made substantial strides in improving the quality of graduate and research programs in the last 15 years even during some times when we’ve faced funding cuts and significant economic challenges," said UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. "The substantial progress made is a testament to the exemplary faculty and staff at UK, who have fueled this institution’s rise in national prominence. As importantly, the Commonwealth can only benefit from the increased stature and productivity of UK doctoral degree programs."

Highlights of the study include:

·         In the 1993 study, UK had 30 doctoral programs ranked by the NRC, of the 41 programs ranked nationally. And, moreover, in the 1993 report, only six programs at UK scored in the top 50 percent "scholarly quality of the program."

·         Now, of the 44 UK doctoral programs ranked in the 2006 survey, 15 programs ranked in the top 50 percent. Three of these UK programs ranked within the top 25 percent: English, Hispanic Studies and Public Administration.

The 2006 NRC survey increased the areas of analysis from 41 to 62 fields of research doctoral programs, which for the first time included new fields and research doctorates in agriculture. UK had 44 programs included among these 62 fields.

UK had 12 other programs in the top 50 percent, which, listed alphabetically, include: Biology, Chemistry, Clinical Psychology, Communication, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Entomology, Experimental Psychology, History, Mathematics, Nursing and Nutritional Sciences.

UK had 10 other programs that had at least one of the four rating points in the top 25 percent: Animal Sciences, Biochemistry, Exercise Science, Geography, Mechanical Engineering, Musicology, Pharmacology, Physiology, Plant Pathology and Toxicology.

The multidimensional NRC rating included four rating points: faculty research activity; student support and outcomes; academic diversity; and a summary qualitative measurement based on quantitative data of differing weights.

The complex study by the NRC does not include an authoritative declaration or ranking of “the best programs” in given fields. However, it does provide comprehensive data and guidance to participating institutions regarding how the assessment can be used to rank the quality of programs.

In addition, in some elite and emerging fields, such as bioinformatics, criminology and criminal justice and film studies the number of U.S. doctoral programs is quite small and the quality of most is extremely high, so top percentages and ranges are less meaningful.

More information about the rankings is available at For additional information, please contact The UK Graduate School, at