Most US News ranking movement just noise, researchers claim

June 5, 2014

An article published in Research in Higher Education claims to unpack the logic behind the US News ranking of US PSE institutions. The research suggests that most movement in the rankings is indicative of statistical “noise” and does not represent meaningful change. Among those universities in the top 20, a movement of 2 spots or fewer should not be taken too seriously, the report says; for colleges beyond the top 20, movement of 4 places should similarly be considered insignificant. The authors say that “a university ranked at 30 could be 95% confident that its rank will fall between 28 and 32, and only when the rank moves beyond those levels can a statistically significant change be claimed.” Any greater movement is typically the result of “long-range and extraordinarily expensive changes” and is unlikely to be influenced by universities’ marketing of themselves in any given year. The authors say that their analysis could help universities formulate their strategic goals, but a representative of US News pointed out that their rankings are intended for consumers, not administrators. Inside Higher Ed | Education Dive | Article Abstract