The exodus of prestigious medical schools from the U.S. News and World Report rankings is growing, with the leaders of an increasing number of schools citing problems with methodology, doubts about accuracy, concerns over “perverse” incentives, and objections to the overall philosophies of such rankings as reasons to end their participation in the surveys.
The latest announcements come from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They follow the January 17 announcement of withdrawal by Harvard Medical School, which was the first to indicate it would refuse further participation in the U.S. News Rankings.
Harvard was quickly followed by several other highly regarded medical schools, including Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, each of which claimed, in one way or the other, that the rankings did not capture the qualities of medical education that it most valued.
University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
“We have notified U.S. News editors that we do not plan to submit data for their medical school rankings next year,” said Mark E. Anderson, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and the Dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine and the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago.
“This decision is based on our judgment that the current methodology raises deep concerns about inequity perpetuated by the misuse of metrics that fail to capture the quality or outcomes of medical education for those who most need these data: applicants to medical school,” added Anderson.
Anderson also said that the Pritzker School of Medicine has asked U.S. News “to convene stakeholders — including medical school applicants, current medical students, and other medical schools — to discuss how best to measure and report what matters most to those applying to become tomorrow’s physicians.”
Washington University at St Louis School of Medicine
In a January 26 letter to Washington University’s School of Medicine community, David H. Perlmutter, Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs, said that the decision to exit the rankings “has been a long time coming.”
Perlmutter acknowledged that while Washington University had been proud of its high placement in the rankings, “there comes a point at which participating in such a system can stand in the way of achieving our most important goals. The information upon which these rankings are based is too easily subject to manipulation and misrepresentation; the data is ultimately incapable of being validated and this includes the way USNWR measures research capabilities. Their methodology fails to account for so many of our most deeply held institutional values. It is flimsy scaffolding upon which to base our pride and satisfaction, and we have much firmer ground to stand on when it comes to evaluating our own success.”
Each of the medical schools that has declined to submit further data to U.S. News has also acknowledged that it’s important to supply prospective students and the public with data about its performance, curriculum and standards. They have promised to do so on their individual web sites, emphasizing the measures they believe are most valid and meaningful.
When several premier law schools recently revolted against U.S. News’ rankings, the publication responded quickly with promises of revisions to its law school ranking methodology going forward. Whether a similar response will be made to the medical schools – as the University of Chicago has requested – is not yet clear.
But one thing is clear. What may have begun as a largely symbolic gesture by several influential legal and medical educators is no longer easily dismissed as merely gestural. Whether it leads to the demise of college rankings, as some have predicted – or hoped – is doubtful, but it is almost certainly going to result in much greater public scrutiny and legitimate skepticism about the credibility and meaning of such rankings.