Rankings and reputation
By Myles Brand, President of Indiana University
|Benjamin Franklin said: “Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked, and never mended well.”
Indiana University’s distinguished academic reputation is a central part of our heritage. Protecting it is vital. So I have been concerned about inaccurate reports that Indiana University’s academic reputation is eroding.
One frequently cited survey of the quality of U.S. colleges and universities
is the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings. An important
tool used by U.S. News is academic reputation. By that measure, IU
Bloomington ranks high—tied for 11th among public universities nationwide
and tied for 4th among Big Ten publics. That lofty academic rating
has been steady throughout the past decade, while our overall ranking
has slightly increased.
Still, the magazine has consistently ranked IUB outside of the top 50 public universities in the nation. Why?
In expenditures per student, another important factor in the magazine’s rating system, Indiana University ranks low. We receive relatively low levels of state support and do our best to keep tuition affordable.
U.S. News also ranks universities based on the quantity of research
dollars they attract. Overall, Indiana University, including the School
of Medicine in Indianapolis, does well. But if you look solely at
IU Bloomington, a traditional arts and sciences institution that does
not have an engineering, medical or agricultural school, our research
totals are not among the leaders.
The most useful rankings compare “apples to apples,” and rely on our peers and experts in different fields to judge how various programs in the same disciplines stack up. We’re pleased to have 100 degree programs ranked in the top 20 of their disciplines,
a number that has grown in the past decade.
In a society focused on “Who’s No. 1?,” rankings are inevitable. And we must pay attention to these assessments in looking for ways we can all do our jobs better.
But other ways of judging the quality of an institution have little to do with ratings. Higher education is a competitive field; every year options for potential students expand. Still, IU’s enrollment at its campuses statewide continues to grow, as stude
nts seek excellent education at affordable costs. Meanwhile, support from alumni and friends—people who look closely at our institution and like what they see—is also setting records.
In short, our academic reputation is strong. Keeping it that way is an important job for all of us here at IU.