Office of Planning and Budgeting

The University of Washington is ranked #13 among world universities on the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). While the UW has consistently ranked among the top 20 universities each year since the ARWU was first published, this year’s ranking is the highest it has achieved to date.

The ARWU was first published in 2003 by Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Center for World-Class Universities. Since 2009, the ranking has been published by the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, which is not affiliated with any university. This year, the ARWU ranked 1300 universities around the world, and published the list of the top 500.

Like the recently-published Center for World University Rankings list, the ARWU calculates its rankings based on a university’s external recognition. The components of the ARWU ranking include: total number of alumni and faculty winning major awards; number of highly-cited researchers employed; and counts the number of papers published and cited. The UW scores especially highly in the number of faculty-authored articles indexed in major science and social-science citation indices. In contrast, the number of UW alumni awarded Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals is lower when compared with other top universities. More information about the ARWU’s methodology is available on their website.

In addition to their overall rankings, the ARWU also publishes subject rankings in a number of fields in the natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, medical sciences, and social sciences. The UW’s highest subject rankings in 2017 include: public health (#3 in the world), dentistry and oral sciences (#3), biological sciences (#5), and biomedical engineering (#5).

More information about the UW’s past rankings in the ARWU is available here.

The Center for World University Rankings has ranked the University of Washington among the top universities in the world. In its inaugural Rankings by Subject, released last week, CWUR ranked the UW in the top 10 worldwide in a total of 45 subject categories. The UW had the ninth-most top-10 appearances of any university, ranking just behind the University of Oxford (47 top-10 appearances) and just ahead of MIT (41).

Unlike most university rankings, CWUR does not make use of data provided by universities themselves. Instead, the CWUR Rankings by Subject are calculated based on the number of research articles published in top-tier journals by an institution’s faculty. CWUR ranked a total of 227 subject areas.

The UW’s top-10 rankings included fields from Acoustics (6th) to Women’s Studies (5th). In all, the UW received top-5 rankings in 22 fields, and its Social Work program was ranked #1 in the world.

More information on CWUR’s methodology is available on their website.

OPB’s Institutional Analysis team and UW-IT’s Enterprise Information, Integration & Analytics unit announce seven new peer finance dashboards, available now in UW Profiles. These new dashboards join four existing peer dashboards. Peer dashboards use data publicly available through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to allow users to compare the UW to peer institutions around the country on a range of student- and finance-focused measures.

With the new finance dashboards, users can compare revenues, expenses, and endowment values at the UW and peer institutions. They can also explore the relative importance of different revenue sources and expense categories across institutions. The expenses story dashboard provides a step-by-step look at the expenses that directly or indirectly support universities’ research and instruction missions.

More information about each of the new peer finance dashboards is available through the online documentation. Please feel free to send any questions or comments to uwprofiles@uw.edu.

The 2016 edition of UW Fast Facts is now available.  You can find it on the OPB website, under the UW Data tab and in the Quicklinks bar on the left, or you can access it directly at UW Fast Facts.

Thank you to OPB’s Institutional Analysis team and to our partners around the UW for their work to gather, verify and crosscheck data; format the document; and pull it all together.

Please contact Becka Johnson Poppe or Stephanie Harris if you have any questions.

Reuters recently ranked the UW as the fourth most innovative university in the world among public and private institutions, surpassed only by Stanford, MIT and Harvard.  When looking at public institutions alone, however, the UW topped the list.

As the Seattle Times noted, “The ranking takes into account academic papers, which indicate basic research performed at a university, and patent filings and successes, which point to an institution’s interest in protecting and commercializing its discoveries.”

In addition to the innovation ranking, Washington Monthly recently ranked UW Seattle as the #1 “Best Bang for the Buck” among Western institutions.  Institutions are scored on “’Net’ (not sticker) price, how well they do graduating the students they admit, and whether those students go on to earn at least enough to pay off their loans.”  For more information about the “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings, please see the companion article.

A new report from the Brookings Institution concludes that student loan borrowers may not be in such a dire situation as media reports commonly suggest.  The report, Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?, finds that while student debt levels have risen along with college tuition over the past two decades, college graduates’ incomes have kept pace.  The authors analyze data on student borrowers over the period 1989-2010.  They conclude that education debt has not become a greater burden on borrowing households.

  • Education debt increased most among households with higher levels of educational attainment.  Roughly one-quarter of the increase in student debt can be explained by an increase in the number of households with college degrees, especially graduate degrees.  Since 1989, student borrowers with graduate degrees saw their average debt level increase from about $10,000 to about $40,000.  Over the same time, the debt level for borrowers with bachelor’s degrees increased by a smaller margin, from $6,000 to $16,000.
  • On average, student borrowers’ incomes more than kept pace with increases in student debt.  While average household debt increased by about $18,000 between 1992 and 2010, average annual household income for borrowers increased by about $7,400 over that same period.  The average increase in earnings would pay for the increase in debt incurred in just 2.4 years.
  • The ratio of monthly debt payments to monthly income has held steady.  Between 1992 and 2010, the median borrowing household consistently paid between three and four percent of monthly income toward student debt.  The mean monthly payment decreased from 15 percent to 7 percent of income over that period.

Student debt levels have increased over the past two decades.  The authors conclude that this is largely driven by tuition increases over that time.  However, higher levels of student borrowing also partly reflect an investment in higher levels of education.  For the average borrower, that investment pays off in higher incomes.

The University of Washington was ranked the 14th best university in the world by U.S. News & World Report’s inaugural “Best Global Universities Ranking,” which was released on Tuesday.

Unlike U.S. News’s national rankings, which focus on undergraduate admissions data and graduation rates, these new rankings were based on research-heavy factors such global research reputation, number of publications, PhDs awarded, and highly cited papers (learn more about how the rankings were calculated).  This methodological difference helps explains the odd fact that U.S. News ranks the UW 14th globally, but 48th nationally.

“This is about faculty productivity and prestige … It is meaningful for certain things and not necessarily meaningful for other things. We get that. This is about big muscular research universities doing what research universities claim is their mission,” U.S. News Editor, Brian Kelly, told The Washington Post.

The 2015 Best Global Universities rankings include 500 institutions and 49 countries, and provide breakdowns by region, country, and 21 subject areas. The U.S. dominated the rankings with 16 institutions in the top 20, and 134 institutions on the list overall.  Germany had the second most institutions on the list, with 42, followed by the United Kingdom, with 38. China, which has received a lot of attention in the higher education world lately, also did well with 27 schools among the top 500.

The UW ranks highly on several other global lists:  15th worldwide by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and 26th by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Student Exchanges Hit Record High.  According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities and the number of American students studying abroad are at record highs. In 2012-13, 820,000 foreign students attended American higher ed institutions, a 55,000 increase (7.2 percent) from the previous year. Chinese undergraduates exhibited the biggest increase, 26 percent, bringing the total number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. (undergraduates and graduates) to 235,000. In 2011-12 (the most recent year for which data are available) 283,000 American students went abroad for credit university courses, up 3.4 percent from the prior year.  For institutions hosting the most international students, the UW ranked 14th in the country.

New Studies Cast Doubt on Effectivenessof State Performance-based Funding.  Now that economies are recovering from the Great Recession, state legislators across the country have been hurrying to adopt systems that link state funding for higher education to student outcomes like degree production and completion rates. However, several research papers presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education question the effectiveness of these “performance-based funding” systems. See Inside Higher Ed for a summary of the findings.

College Completion Rates See Little Improvement.  College-completion rates remained largely unchanged this year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Of the first-time students who entered college in fall 2007, 54.2 percent earned a degree or certificate within six years—up 0.1 percentage points from the 2006 cohort. In the public sector, completion rates rose by 1.3 percentage points for students who started at public four-years and by 1.1 percentage points for those who began at public two-years. Unlike the federal government’s college-completion measure, the center tracks part-time students and students who transfer to a different college, sector, or state. Only 22 percent of part-time students earned credentials within six years, compared with 76 percent of those enrolled full time. The research center will issue its full report next month.

University of Michigan’s Shared Services Strategy Faces Opposition.  The University of Michigan is the latest campus to implement “shared services,” a cost-saving strategy that has academic departments rely on centralized staff, rather than department-level staffers. Theoretically, employees in the central pool could become more specialized, and thus more efficient, than departments’ jack-of-all-trades staff. Administrators at Michigan hoped to save $17 million by moving 275 staffers from their campus offices to a single building on the edge of town. However, not only are faculty and students speaking out in opposition, the plan is no longer expected to save nearly as much as once hoped and may barely break even in the short term. Read more at Inside Higher Ed.

Of the nearly 900 schools that received federal money for research and development (R&D) in FY 2011, the UW ranks first among public institutions and second overall in terms of federal research funding. According to a study by the National Science Foundation (NSF), approximately 20 percent of all federal R&D support went to just 10 universities. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed those universities, Table 1 summarizes their findings.

Johns Hopkins University, a private institution, topped the list with nearly $1.9 billion—more than doubling what any other university received that year. The majority of Johns Hopkins’ federal funding came from the Dept. of Defense and NASA. The university also brought in billions via fundraising efforts.

The UW came in second with almost $950 million in federal R&D funding—the most of any public school. The majority of the UW’s money came from the Dept. of Health and Human Services; however, the University was the top beneficiary of NSF funding, receiving more than $145 million in 2011.

Year after year, the same schools consistently receive the most money, said Ronda Britt, a survey statistician with the NSF. 24/7 Wall St. quotes her as saying, these universities “have big research programs that receive a lot of support year after year, and have a lot of infrastructure that helps them keep the money stable.” This holds true for the UW, which has ranked first among public schools since 1974. Having large endowments was another commonality of the top 10 schools, yet federal funding covered the bulk of R&D expenditures in all cases.

As these universities rely heavily on the federal government to support their research, many are concerned about the sweeping cuts of sequestration. The UW and other universities are preparing for a range of possible impacts. As described in our joint brief, the sequester could reduce the UW’s federal grant and contract support by an estimated $75M to $100M during FY13. The UW community is encouraged to remain cautious and conservative in spending federal awards and in planning for future federal funding.

Dartmouth will stop granting college credit for students with high AP test scores beginning with the class of 2018, which will enter in the Fall of 2014. Currently, Dartmouth students with scores of four or five (out of five) on an AP test can have certain lower-level courses waived, earn placement into higher-level courses, or receive credit toward their degrees. When the new policy takes effect, the first two of options will still be available, but students will not be able to earn credits. Dartmouth’s Committee on Instruction proposed the change in policy and the faculty passed it with an “overwhelming majority,” according to Inside Higher Ed.  However, faculty members say they “still value AP courses – just not as a replacement for a college classroom.” 

Dartmouth changed the policy after its psychology department performed an experiment to assess the college-level competence of top AP scorers. Students who had earned a five on the AP psychology test were asked to take a placement exam based on the final for intro psychology; 90 percent of those students failed, according to the college. The researchers also found that the students who failed and then chose to take intro psychology did not perform better than their peers who had never taken AP psychology or who had scored less than a five. These results challenge those of an independed study published by College Board. College Board officials say they question Dartmouth’s results and believe the college has an obligation to share the details of its experiment.

There are concerns that the college’s change in policy will discourage high school students from accepting the challenge of an AP course and/or could keep students on campus longer than they would if college credit were granted for their scores. Dartmouth’s Committee on Instruction plans to review the policy in three years.

In Washington, RCW 28B.10.053 requires that institutes of higher education “recognize the equivalencies of at least one year of course credit and maximize the application of the credits toward lower division general education requirements that can be earned through successfully demonstrating proficiency on examinations, including but not limited to advanced placement and international baccalaureate examinations.”

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