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Thomas C. Skalak

Thomas C. Skalak

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National Research Council: Data-Based Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs


Approximately every 10 years, the National Research Council (NRC), part of the National Academies, conducts an assessment of research-doctorate programs in the United States. The purpose of the assessment is to “help universities improve the quality of [doctoral] programs through benchmarking; provide potential students and the public with accessible, readily available information on doctoral programs nationwide; and enhance the nation's overall research capacity.”1

The last NRC assessment was conducted in 1993 and released in 1995.  The resulting rankings were based on peer assessment of faculty quality.  The current assessment, conducted in 2006/7 and released on Sept. 28, 2010, is significantly more data-driven than the previous study.  Institutions, doctoral programs, faculty, and students completed separate questionnaires that solicited various data elements (e.g. time-to-degree, student financial support) not included in the previous assessment.  

More than 5,000 programs in 62 fields at 212 institutions participated in the assessment.  Thirty-nine U.Va. doctoral programs participated in the assessment. More than 800 U.Va. faculty received questionnaires with 88 percent responding. In addition, more than 300 U.Va. doctoral students received questionnaires with 73 percent responding.

The University believes the NRC assessment is important in that it will provide a significant amount of publicly-available information about U.Va. graduate programs and those across the United States.

U.Va. Results & Report Materials (updated 9/28/10)

To best understand the complexities of the NRC assessment, it is recommended that users read the report summary (the first bullet) prior to reviewing programmatic results:


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1. See
2. Ostriker, J.P. & Kuh, C.V. (2003).  Assessing research-doctorate programs: A methodology study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 3.