UC Davis graduate programs have continued their roller coaster ride in the always controversial U.S. News and World Report graduate school rankings.
Take the School of Law: In rankings posted earlier this week, King Hall ranked 38th. The magazine ranked virtually the same school 29th in 2012 and in 28th in 2010. In between, in 2011, it slotted UCD at 23rd.
In other rankings posted earlier this week on the magazine’s website that will soon be published in its guidebook, “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2014,” U.S. News ranked UCD’s:
* Graduate School of Management’s full-time master’s of business administration program 40th, down from 36th a year ago;
* School of Education 60th, down from 58th;
* College of Engineering 33rd for the second year in a row; and
* School of Medicine 19th in primary care and 42nd in research.
For the medical school, its research ranking held steady, while its ranking in primary care improved five places from 2012.
The magazine’s closely watched — and always controversial — rankings have a way of boosting a program one year, blasting it the next.
“Law schools don’t really change much from year to year, but the criteria used by U.S. News can generate significant fluctuations in rankings,” said Kevin Johnson, dean at King Hall, in an email message.
“This year’s survey gave greater weight to the employment rate of recent graduates, and the hard-hit legal job market in our state adversely affected the rankings of all UC law schools. That is a situation we have been working hard to address by increasing the staff in our career services office and increasing our employment outreach, among other measures, but there are still challenges to be met.”
Johnson noted that the peer assessment portion of UCD’s ranking placed it at No. 23. Another well-known ranking of law school faculty productivity and influence, by University of Chicago Law School professor Brian Leiter, found that UCD “is now solidly top 25.”
In recent years, UCD has lured faculty from Harvard University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and others, opened a $30 million expansion to King Hall with a 125-seat courtroom (that has hosted U.S. Court of Appeals hearings and a debate between California attorney general candidates) and seen one of its own, graduate Tani Cantil-Sakauye, sworn in as chief justice of the California Supreme Court.
Even as the number of applications have dipped at UCD, as at law schools across the country, the quality of King Hall’s students have not fallen off: Those admitted for fall 2010 carried a median GPA of 3.69 and LSAT score of 164; for fall 2012, those admitted carried a median GPA of 3.68 and LSAT score of 165.
In the case of medical schools, the U.S. News methodology includes such measures as peer assessment scores, National Institutes of Health grant funding, average research activity per clinical activity, student selectivity and faculty resources. Research activity and proportion of students entering primary care specialties are weighed in those categories.
UCD’s now top-20 primary care program ranked 41st only two years ago.
Mark Servis, senior associate dean for medical education, said the ranking reflected both the medical school’s commitment to training primary care doctors as well as areas of newly increased strength.
“In recent years, we have developed innovative programs to attract and train even more medical students for primary care practice, especially in rural and urban underserved areas of the Central Valley,” he said.
The full-time MBA program is, on its face, still more evidence of the fickle nature of the rankings: It ranked 28th in 2011, 42nd in 2010.
Because the margins between programs can be so small, the management school tends to view them through a different lens. The ranking of the full-time MBA program may move up and down some — but it has remained in the top 10 percent of programs for 18 years running.
The school’s part-time MBA program, in Sacramento and San Ramon, remained 19th.
— Reach Cory Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden