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Rating Computer Science Academic Programs

by Conrad Weisert
September 10, 2016
©2016 Information Disciplines, Inc.

This article may be circulated freely as long as the copyright notice is included.

Academic Rankings Considered Harmful!
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The methodology currently used by USNWR to rank computer-science graduate program is highly questionable. This ranking is based solely on "reputational standing" in which department chairs and graduate directors are asked to rank each graduate program on a 1-5 scale. . . . It is a well-known "secret" that rankings of graduate programs of universities of outstanding reputation are buoyed by the halo effect of their parent institutions' reputations. Such reputational rankings have no academic value whatsoever . . .

—Moshe Y. Vardi, Editor-in-Chief, ACM Communications, September, 2016, p. 5

"Considered harmful" essays have served as rebuttals to a variety of over-rated fads. One dissenting contributor even asserted that all such essays1 should themselves be considered harmful, but Eric Meyers's condemnation was too broad and too mean-spirited to be taken seriously. Most such opinion pieces and their titles serve to focus readers' attention on practices that have been widely accepted in the absence of critical discussion.

Moshe V. Vardi's recent piece is a positive contribution. He points out the obvious oversimplification of imposing a linear ranking on a complex set of multiple criteria. He urges:

We concur. Now what about those end-of-course students' evaluations?


1As the author of one such piece (ACM SIGPLAN Notices, April, 2002) myself I hope readers don't take Meyer's advice.

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