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Newest rankings validate continued COE excellence

This September, U.S. News and World Report released its 2014 annual rankings of graduate schools in education, and once again the University of Oregon College of Education excels, ranking No. 8 (tie) among all colleges of education and No. 2 (tie) among public institutions in that category. And, again, Special Education ranked No. 3 overall for 14 years running, the highest ranking of any graduate program at UO. These rankings, of which U.S. News is the most visible and well-known, come to bear on many decisions related to the sustained success of the college, from undergrads to grads and even faculty.

Interim Dean Mia Tuan says that in the case of the COE, rankings confirm much of what we already know about ourselves.

“To potential students and their families, national rankings are a further proof point of the value we provide to them, the University of Oregon and our community. For us, rankings help validate our dedication to academic rigor and excellence in research,” she said. “The degree to which we help shape educational and human-services policy around the nation and the world demands that we consistently deliver on our mission – and we do."

National rankings are a source of great pride and satisfaction for faculty and staff, many of whom believe that external validation reflects the respect and admiration of its peers. There are many efforts that occur behind the scenes to advance the college's reputation for innovation and leadership - an increasingly difficult prospect in the face of reduced state, and now federal funding.

Chris Murray, department head for Special Education, says applicants pay close attention to rankings. In other words, they matter to people who matter to the COE – like grad students.

“We conduct face-to-face interviews with all of the graduate students admitted to our program in special education. Virtually every candidate mentions that their decision to attend the UO was affected by our current ranking of No. 3 in this area,” said Murray.

Murray believes the U.S. News rankings serve their purpose, and don’t pretend to be the end-all, be-all of college choice.

“When making an individual decision about where or where not to attend school, I believe that it is very important to know as much as possible about the specific research and scholarly interests of faculty and whether or not you (as a prospective applicant) share those interests. To me, that is the most important aspect of deciding where to attend graduate school. Global rankings such as U.S. News and World Report can provide general information about the reputation and productivity of the faculty that can allow an individual to narrow her/his search but they do not provide the level of detail necessary to make a final decision. However, U.S. News and World Report does not claim to provide this level of specificity and instead admits that their rankings are a starting - not stopping - point. There are over 2,000 schools in the United States that teach education and learning about the specific interests of faculty within all those institutions borders on the impossible. Therefore, national rankings can provide a launching point for a more in-depth examination of a program.”