Ranking Academic Departments: Empirical Findings and a Theoretical Perspective

Document Type



Educational Studies (CGU)

Publication Date



Developmental Psychology | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Evaluations of academic departments through peer review rankings have assumed importance in decision making by government officials, university administrators, and department chairpersons. This article reviews the history of these highly publicized rankings and subsequent attempts to identify empirical correlates of the ratings. New findings are presented which indicate that the ACE rankings can be predicted almost perfectly (r=.91) with one measure—departmental rate of publication in highly cited journals. The implications of this finding are discussed, since it both supports the notion of peer rankings but also reveals some inherent weaknesses in the academic assessment process. Finally, it is suggested that concepts from social stratification theory can illuminate our understanding of evaluation in higher education.

Rights Information

© 1981 Springer