This is no U.S. News & World Report ranking.
The National Research Council's ratings of 5,000 doctoral programs, released Tuesday, don't spotlight a top 100.
Instead, the council gives programs in 62 fields two main rankings -- calculated differently and expressed in ranges with 90 percent confidence. So the report might find that there's a 90 percent chance a program might rank from 23rd to 35th.
Confused? You're not alone.
"It took me some time to wrap my head around the math," said Henning Schroeder, the University of Minnesota's dean of graduate education.
The U's programs did well, he asserts, with 65 percent earning a rank with a range that reaches into the top 25th percentile. Aerospace engineering, American studies and German language and literature all did particularly well, according to at least one ranking method.
Schroeder was pleased to see that "we have strong programs in every field," he said, pointing out that the U had the second-highest number of programs assessed of the 212 schools participating in the study.
"We are a very comprehensive university," he said, "but being comprehensive doesn't mean that we only have a cluster of strengths."
The National Research Council began collecting data in 2005, expecting to release the report in 2007, but it was repeatedly delayed. Some in higher education have questioned how relevant the report is now.
Schroeder joins other university officials in believing the ratings are important as a baseline.
The council deeply analyzes all kinds of things about a program -- including diversity, grants awarded, publications and funding for graduate students. Those factors are then weighted according to how important faculty in that field believe them to be. See the nitty-gritty at www.nap.edu/rdp.
The council's last report was published in 1995. Where was Schroeder then? "Oh, my. That was 15 years ago," he said. "I was on my way to Germany, to my first job as a department head. I didn't even know what NRC meant at the time." firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7168