MIT's School of Engineering as well as seven engineering departments, seven graduate science programs and three programs in the Sloan School of Management were rated the best in the nation in "America's Best Graduate Schools," an annual survey published by US News and World Report.
"Our continuing strong reputational ratings speak to the quality of our faculty and the dynamic nature of our educational research programs," said President Charles M. Vest.
For the School of Engineering and five of its departments, this year's top ratings continued a clean-sweep tradition. It was the 11th consecutive year of top rankings for the School of Engineering and the Departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering.
MIT also ranked number one this year in computer engineering (nine times in 10 years) and electrical engineering (eight times in 10 years).
"The entire School of Engineering community is delighted to remain so highly regarded in surveys like this. We can't, however, become complacent," said Professor Thomas Magnanti, dean of the School of Engineering.
"To remain at the forefront of engineering research and education, we must simultaneously reaffirm our commitment to what we traditionally do well and yet continually innovate. To do so, we aim to sustain our leadership in engineering science while creating new research and educational opportunities through our new divisions of bioengineering and environmental health and engineering systems and through our novel partnerships with Singapore as well as leading major corporations."
Of the other five engineering specialties, MIT ranked third in bioengineering/biomedical (outranked by Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at San Diego), third in civil (outranked by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and by the University of California at Berkeley), and seventh in environmental/environmental health.
MIT science specialties ranked first by US News were the programs in mathematics, computer science, inorganic chemistry, computer hardware, artificial intelligence, geological tectonics and structure, and atomic and molecular physics.
While expressing some skepticism about the scientific value of the annual ratings book, Dean of Science Robert J. Birgeneau looked on the bright side for MIT.
"Of course we all believe that these rankings are unscientific and therefore of little or no value--unless one does very well," he said. "Indeed, from more quantitative studies we know that in science there is typically no statistically meaningful difference among the firstfour or five schools, so being ranked first or second is no different from being ranked fourth or fifth. There is then usually a gap to thenext set of schools.
"From my point of view, the most important development in these new rankings is that MIT neuroscience has moved into the top five. Again, as in all other fields of science, we share the top five positions with the very best universities in the US. Thus, every department in the School of Science is in the top group in the country," he said.
The top-ranked programs among business school specialties were management information systems, production/operations management and quantitative analysis. The US News annual ranking of 300 graduate business schools placed the Sloan School fifth in the nation after Stanford, Harvard, Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. The finance program was also ranked fifth.
"We are always pleased to be ranked among the top schools. Revisions in the MBA core, the addition of the e-commerce tracks and the new Financial Technology Initiative with Merrill Lynch are all positive developments and will ensure that Sloan remain one of the top business schools in the country," said Richard Schmalensee, dean of the Sloan School.
The US News ratings continue to be controversial. They use a mathematical formula with many factors, based on both objective facts and on subjective measures such as reputation.
Five major fields are ranked annually: business, education, engineering, law and medicine. Schools in other disciplines, such as science and humanities, are ranked by reputation only.
The US News graduate guidebook appeared on newsstands on March 22.
A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 24).