BU Today

Campus Life

LAW, ENG, GSM Climb in “U.S. News” Rankings

Faculty productivity, research funding, and rising scores cited

ENG Dean Kenneth Lutchen says that ENG's rise in the rankings "serves to prompt the best students to take a closer look at us." Photo by Frank Curran

BU’s College of Engineering, School of Law, and Graduate School of Management continued to rise in the U.S. News and World Report rankings this year, garnering top-10 placements for four individual graduate programs and advancing at least one spot in the overall rankings.

The College of Engineering was ranked 41st among graduate programs in the latest edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools: 2008, up one spot from last year’s placement, and the biomedical engineering program was rated 6th in the country. The graduate program at SMG advanced three places, to 41st among the nation’s top business

schools, and the MBA in health-care management was ranked 17th. At LAW, the specialty programs in health, tax, and intellectual property earned the 7th, 8th, and 10th spots, and the school was rated 20th overall, up from 22nd last year.

Both ENG Dean Kenneth Lutchen and LAW Dean Maureen O’Rourke say that the ratings should not be considered absolute indicators of a school’s quality. And, “in light of the reactions we receive from recruiters and the success of our alumni,” says SMG Dean Louis Lataif (SMG’61, Hon.’90), “we believe this MBA program is much stronger than the rankings yet reflect.” Nonetheless, the news is welcome to both prospective and current students, as well as to alumni. “We have to be aware of this list’s disproportionate impact on the decision-making processes of potential students and their parents,” Lutchen says. “In a sense, being on this list serves to prompt the best students to take a closer look at us. When they do, I’m confident they will like what they see.”

Lutchen, a professor of biomedical engineering, cited faculty productivity and student quality as the college’s key strengths, noting that ENG is among the 21 engineering schools in the U.S. with research expenditures greater than $500,000 per faculty member. “Our faculty is attracting research support from the nation’s premier funding agencies, and the impact our faculty is having on engineering innovation has a ripple effect that enhances our educational mission at the graduate and undergraduate levels,” he says.

O’Rourke attributes LAW’s overall increase in ranking to the rise in median LSAT scores and median GPAs from the previous year — the LSAT increased from 164 to 165 and GPA from 3.61 to 3.68 — but says the long-term rise in the rankings is more indicative of the school’s quality. “We have moved up over time,” she says, “and that is a good trend.”

She says that each program recognized as one of the top 10 has its own strengths. The health law program shares several faculty members —  among them professors George Annas and Wendy Mariner — with the School of Public Health, enabling LAW to cosponsor events such as the annual health law conference of the past three years. The faculty in the taxation program is well represented in scholarly work, and the intellectual property program has numerous faculty experts, including Wendy Gordon, a professor specializing in copyright, Mike Meurer, a professor and expert on patent law, and O’Rourke herself, who specializes in commercial law.

U.S. News ranks professional school programs in business, education, engineering, law, and medicine based on expert opinion about program quality and statistical benchmarks that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research, and students. Deans, program directors, and senior faculty are asked to judge the academic quality of programs in their field on a scale of one to five, and professionals who hire new graduates are also surveyed for the magazine’s rankings in business, education, engineering, law, and medicine.

The rankings weigh different factors from year to year, making them an unreliable basis on which to choose a graduate program, says O’Rourke. The advancement, however, remains a point of pride for those affiliated with LAW. “The U.S. News rankings have an impact on many students’ decisions with respect to where to attend law school,” she says. “I think they also affect how alumni and current students feel about the school — the better we do in the rankings, the more pride they feel.” 

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu