March 15, 2011 — Rankings of research and primary care programs at the University of Virginia School of Medicine improved in U.S. News & World Report's 2012 edition of America's Best Graduate Schools, released today. The School of Nursing, whose graduate program was last ranked in 2007, rose from No. 19 to No. 15.
The School of Law, Curry School of Education, Darden School of Business and School of Engineering and Applied Science all remained in the top 40, with Law rising to No. 9 from No. 10.
The medical school's ranking in the research category moved up three spots, from No. 25 to No. 22, and its primary care program rose from No. 39 to No. 20.
"Our ranking reflects our unparalleled success in obtaining stimulus funding and the introduction of our new curriculum with its focus on active learning," School of Medicine Dean Steven T. DeKosky said. "It is wonderful that our innovative approach to medical education is being recognized by students, alumni and our fellow educators." Harvard University remained No. 1 in research and the University of Washington in primary care.
Dorrie Fontaine, dean of the School of Nursing, said that since 2007, students have had two new graduate options at U.Va. – the doctor of nursing practice degree and the clinical nurse leader master's program – that may have helped in the ranking. "These link to the need for nurse practitioners and nursing faculty," she said, noting federal estimates that more than half a million new nurses will be needed by 2018.
The nursing school's program in psychiatric nursing was ranked eighth. Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington shared the No. 1 ranking for nursing schools.
U.S. News bases its rankings on expert opinions about program quality and statistical indicators intended to measure the quality of a school's faculty, research and students. The data come from surveys of more than 1,200 programs and some 13,000 academics and professionals that were conducted in fall 2010 and early 2011.
The statistical indicators for business, education, engineering, law and medicine fall into two categories, the authors wrote: "Inputs, or measures of the qualities that students and faculty bring to the educational experience, and outputs, measures of graduates' achievements linked to their degrees." The rankings should be used to supplement – not substitute for – a prospective student's own research into programs, the magazine stresses.
The School of Law again led the University's rankings – holding down the No. 9 spot, a tie with the University of California at Berkeley – and its tax law program was judged the eighth-best in the nation. Yale University beat out Harvard University for the No. 1 spot among law schools.
In a new wrinkle, the magazine presented a list titled "When Lawyers Do the Grading," which ranked schools based on the opinions of those who recruit and hire at major law firms. U.Va.'s School of Law came in sixth in those rankings, tied with New York University.
Darden held on to its No. 13 ranking, as did its management program at No. 7. "This is a recognition by deans of other business schools and by corporate recruiters of Darden's leadership in several areas," Dean Robert Bruner said. "We are gratified by this vote of confidence, but continue to aspire for rankings that are higher yet. A range of new programs and initiatives at Darden will help to take us there." Harvard and Stanford universities tied for the top spot.
Curry was ranked No. 22, down one spot from last year but still up nine from three years ago. Four Curry programs were judged by education school deans as some of the best in their fields: special education (No. 6), secondary education (No. 11), education policy (No. 11) and administration/supervision (No. 12). This marks the first time Curry's administration and education policy programs were ranked. Vanderbilt University was ranked first among education schools.
Curry Dean Robert Pianta said the top-25 ranking recognizes the hard work of students and faculty.
"The competitiveness of these rankings increases each year and so our consistency is a very positive sign," he said. "That we also now have two programs appearing for the first time – in policy and in leadership – along with our historical presence in teacher education and special education is evidence of our rising presence in new areas and the breadth of our national visibility."
The Engineering School remained the 39th-ranked program, tied with Boston University and the University of California, Irvine. However, more individual programs were singled out: biomedical engineering (No. 19); chemical engineering (No. 30); computer engineering (No. 33), electrical engineering, (No. 38), and civil engineering (No. 41). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology took the top spot.
Programs in the humanities, sciences and social sciences are ranked only periodically by U.S. News. Here are previous years' results for disciplines in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences:
• Physics: No. 40
• Chemistry: No. 45
• Biological sciences: No. 46
• English, No. 10
• History, No. 20
• Psychology, No. 23
• Economics, No. 28
More detailed U.Va. results will be posted on its Facts at a Glance site. U.S. News' extended rankings and details about methodology can be found on the U.S. News & World Report website.