US News & World Report Changes Ranking System After Boycott
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US News and World Report Changes Ranking System After Boycott

Zoe Kramer January 3, 2023

After drawing controversy for its law school rankings, US News & World Report has decided to overhaul the methodology that it uses to determine these results. Beginning in November, several major law schools said they would no longer provide information to the organisation, including Yale, Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford, Columbia, and the University of California, Berkeley. These universities made up some of the top spots on the rankings. Law deans at these institutions cited several concerns with the ranking system, including a lack of prioritization of programmes that aim for public interest careers, welcome working-class students, and offer need-based aid.

After being in talks for several weeks, meeting with deans and administrators from a variety of institutions, US News & World Report has now come forward with the approach it will be taking to rank law schools in the future. The organisation sent out messages to law school deans as well as prospective students. It will no longer be taking into account an institution’s expenditures per student, a metric which favours wealthier universities. It will also put less weight on peer assessment surveys completed by lawyers, academics and judges. The plan is to emphasise more outcome-based metrics, such as graduate school attendance and fellowships. US News & World Report also says it will continue to work with leaders in academia and industry when determining its metrics.

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It is normal for the organisation to implement changes with each successive cycle of rankings, however in this case, the changes are more extensive than usual. Due to the boycott, this year’s list, which is expected to be published in March, will be determined only by information available publicly, such as data from the American Bar Association and outside surveys. Information that is normally self-reported by universities will not weigh in, even for those institutions that did not participate in the boycott.

These developments bring about important questions about the role that rankings play in academia as a whole. As one of the main factors prospective students use when making their application decisions, ranking websites hold a significant amount of weight in how universities are esteemed. As a result, the different ways these websites — often run by staff outside the field they are ranking — are held accountable will be important for establishing equity moving forward. How this will play out outside the legal profession remains to be seen.

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Zoe Kramer has been writing for GRV Media’s student-centric website Freshered since October 2022 and is now also contributing to HITC. She graduated from Cardiff University in 2022 with a BA in Journalism, Media and English Literature. During her time in university, she worked for her student newspaper as well as completing an internship with a book publisher. She has also written and continues to write book and theatre reviews. She is excited to now be pursuing a career as a journalist and learning something new every day. In particular, she loves writing about student life, books, the Internet, and travel. Originally from the United States, she is enjoying living abroad in the UK.