Though many higher education-focused publications stress the influence academic rankings have on school reputation, some students and faculty see it as a smaller factor in the grand scheme of the college decision-making process.
IU was ranked No. 117 on Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2018 list of the best higher education institutions worldwide.
This ranking is an increase from IU’s 2017 standing at No. 150. Compared to other Big Ten Conference universities on the Times list, IU was ranked behind 10 of the 13 other conference members.
The website also awarded IU with rankings in the top 50 on multiple program-specific lists, including information technology, business, music and communications.
“Rankings are just one of many sources of information that affect the stature of a campus or school," said Vice Provost for Finance and Strategy Munirpallam A. Venkataramanan. "Over time, rankings may have some impact on a school’s stature, but a simple fluctuation in rankings is likely to have minimal impact. Of course, when a school excels in the rankings, that information is valuable to share with prospective students and faculty.”
U.S. News and World Report ranked IU 90th on its list of national universities. The publication listed IU No. 39 in Top Public Schools, while Niche.com granted the school a No. 28 position in the same category.
These publications vary on how their rankings are determined. Niche.com uses a combination of comprehensive data from sources such as the Department of Education, the U.S. Census and the FBI, along with more than 100 million reviews from students, parents and residents, to calculate grades for schools.
Times Higher Education judges research-intensive universities across select core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. This varied ranking methodology encourages a diverse range of opinions regarding academic rankings and the role they play in altering the appeal of a school.
Freshman Hannah Olenec said academic rankings remained a fairly important factor during her college search.
“I feel that the rank of a college or a program is important because it may help with finding a job later in life," Olenec said. "For example, if you were looking at job applicants and there was one from Yale and one from a community college, which one would you gravitate towards?”
Rankings did not play such a significant role in freshman Kolby Swanson’s decision-making process.
“To me, academic rankings were not fully what mattered,” Swanson said. “I was looking more to see what school fits me best and gives me the most opportunities to learn and grow.”
When asked what steps IU has taken to achieve its status as one of the highest-ranked public institutions in the U.S., Venkataramanan pointed to the school's history of teaching excellence and cutting-edge research endeavors.
"IU achieved that distinction by allowing its values, culture and goals, such as its commitment to teaching and research excellence and service to our state, to guide our decisions," Venkataramanan said. "We track and measure internal metrics aligned with those goals to ensure we continue to improve across all dimensions. By their very nature, rankings capture some, but not all, of this success.”
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