Duke has jumped two spots in the U.S. News and World Report’s national universities ranking.
The University is now eighth on the list of universities offering doctoral degrees, sharing the spot with the University of Pennsylvania. Duke was listed as tenth last year. The No. 8 spot marks the highest position Duke has held since the 2008 ranking, putting it above the California Institute of Technology, which was ranked fifth last year. The number one spot is shared by Harvard and Princeton Universities, and Yale stands at number three.
“We are pleased that Duke continues to be ranked by both its peers and also by these particular measures as being truly a great university in the country,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “The fact that we have a strong commitment to small classes, personal attention and of course the general reputation of the University are important factors that have led to this new ranking.”
Schoenfeld noted, however, that the same 11 schools consistently occupy the top ten and that the rankings depend on several factors, including chance.
Duke was noted in the ranking for its service learning programs, emphasis on writing in the disciplines and undergraduate research and creative projects—labeled “programs to look for.”
The University also hovered in the top 10 in more specific rankings related to instruction and value.
It ranked eighth in its commitment to teaching and ninth in the category “great schools at great prices,” which evaluates schools’ academic quality against the cost of attendance for a student receiving an average need-based financial aid package.
“All the areas that have been recognized are factors that have made us unique and distinctive, and it’s great that we are being recognized for that,” Schoenfeld said.
The University placed third in the biomedical and biomedical engineering field, and the Pratt School of Engineering was named No. 20 among undergraduate engineering programs.
Duke’s overall ranking has oscillated within the top ten over the past couple decades, peaking in 1997,when the University was ranked third and reaching a low point in 2009 and 2011 when it was tenth.
Provost Peter Lange noted that the rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.
“We know our programs are improving, our entering classes as well, but the annual fluctuations really are a mystery, reflective of not a great deal,” Lange wrote in an email Tuesday.
Likewise, Schoenfeld noted that the rankings do not ultimately hold much weight.
“Our research every year shows that when you’re in the top ten, the rankings make far less of an impact on applications and yield than people think they do,” he said.
The ranking is a good statistic for the University, but it effectively has no meaning, said junior Alec Petersen.
"There is definitely excitement each year to see the newest rankings, even if the top 10 schools move just within their own group," junior Danish Husain wrote in an email. "As long as my experiences here keep me growing as a person as they have in the past two years, Duke is number one in my book."
Andrew Beaton and Kristie Kim contributed reporting.