Ranking SSWs

Along with the many subjective factors that go into a choice of a school of social work (SSW), there have been some attempts to provide more objective rankings.  This post looks at a few.

First, of course, there is the U.S. News & World Report ranking of MSW programs.  About.com, a good general-purpose source of information, summarizes the U.S. News rankings into a list of schools that have tended to be in the top 10 in recent years.  There is the aging and always somewhat dubious Gourman Report.

There are also scholarly and other publications on the practice of ranking SSWs according to the numbers of articles published by faculty members and/or of how frequently those articles are cited in other professional publications.  Such approaches are part of the large debate on different ways of measuring educational quality or usefulness in higher education.  As an example of this genre, the subscription-based service of Academic Analytics provides a productivity-oriented ranking of top-10 schools that is not terribly different from the U.S. News list.

It may also be possible to estimate the quality of a SW program by looking at the competitiveness of the university as a whole (whether using U.S. News or some other source, e.g., Princeton Review, Forbes, ARWU, College Prowler).  But  as noted in Pike’s (2004) comparison of U.S. News rankings and NSSE benchmarks, “the criteria used to evaluate institutions have little or nothing to do with the quality of the education a student receives” (p. 194). I will attest to that:  as an undergraduate, I felt I obtained a better education, for my purposes, at California State University (Long Beach) than I did as a subsequent transfer student at Columbia College (NY).

People familiar with the larger debate know that schools can be ranked by many factors.  Those who weight their factors differently than U.S. News can come up with very different results.  For example,  Kirk, Corcoran, and Kil (2009) ranked schools by their selectivity, and found that the most competitive MSW programs in that sense admitted fewer than one-third of their applicants, while some of the most prestigious (e.g., Case Western, Washington University, Columbia) accepted more than three-quarters of their applicants.  Things are quite different on the Ph.D. level.  (See my separate post on that.)  Finally, for both MSW and Ph.D. students, it can be very informative to tinker with different possibilities in the individually customizable rankings of Ph.D. programs provided by PhDs.org.

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  • School of Social Work  On October 27, 2009 at 1:18 AM

    That’s true schools can be ranked by many factors like infrastructure of school, teaching methods, environment of school, different activities which are very useful for students.


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