The National Research Council has published an exhaustive study that ranks 5,000 U.S. doctoral programs in 62 fields across 212 institutions.   The Washington Post's coverage notes that this "long-awaited report...offers the first definitive rankings of the programs in 15 years." The complex set of rankings -- based on a myriad of statistics  -- apply a "range" to each program instead of giving it a fixed rank. A given medical or engineering program, for example, may rank 'as high a X', or 'as low as Y'.

According to the Press Release, the influential study is "designed to help universities evaluate and improve the quality of their programs and to provide prospective students with information on the nation's doctoral programs." The National Research Council identifies several trends such as

  • The number of students enrolled has increased by 4 percent in engineering and by 9 percent in the physical sciences

  • The number of students enrolled has declined by 5 percent in the social sciences and by 12 percent the humanities

The Chronicle of Higher Education has created a fascinating little interactive tool to help navigate and understand the findings. The full report can be downloaded here.