Pitt Is Again Ranked in Very Top Cluster of America's Public Research Universities

Issue Date: 
May 17, 2010

The University of Pittsburgh has been ranked in the very top cluster of the nation’s public research universities in the recently released 2009 edition of The Top American Research Universities. This is the fourth consecutive year that Pitt has earned the highest ranking. Only six other universities were placed in the very top group of public research universities this year—the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Wisconsin.

The report clusters universities based on their comparative strength in research, private support, faculty, doctorates, postdoctoral appointees, and undergraduate quality, as assessed across nine objective measures. Reflecting a core belief that “universities of the highest quality tend to do most things very well,” the institutions placed in the top cluster must rank among the top 25 public universities on all nine measures.

In commenting on the University of Pittsburgh’s performance, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg stated, “When this particular study was first released in 2000, we immediately began using it in our own benchmarking, because we believed it was the best independently produced assessment of institutional strength—in part, because it does rely on objective and well-targeted measures.  To be performing at levels that place us in such a distinguished top cluster is a real achievement.”

In 2000, the University of Pittsburgh was ranked in the study’s fourth cluster of public research universities.  That group included such other strong universities as Ohio State, Purdue, and the University of Virginia.  To rise to the top cluster, Pitt had to improve its performance compared to those institutions and to another 12 of the country’s finest public research universities.

In the initial Top American Research Universities report, its editors placed the significance of Pitt’s rankings rise in perspective by first noting that “research universities live in a highly competitive marketplace, and none of those in the top categories is likely to cease improving.”   To get relatively better, then, a university “must match and then exceed the growth of its competitors.” This was described as a “major challenge.”  And this year’s report notes the “remarkable stability in the rankings of research universities,” particularly “at the top of the distribution.”

Consistent with the approach taken by this report—which clusters universities, rather than ranking them sequentially—Chancellor Nordenberg stated that “it always is possible to find bases to argue about distinctions between institutions that are drawn too finely.” However, he continued by noting that “our University’s momentum in rising to claim and then retain a place in the top cluster for three of the last four years is an unmistakable measure of our progress and should be a source of pride for all of the many Pitt people who have contributed to building our ongoing record of success.”

The Top American Research Universities report is published by The Center for Measuring University Performance, which is located at Arizona State University.  Its coeditors are John V. Lombardi, the president of the Louisiana State University System, and Elizabeth D. Capaldi, the executive vice president and university provost at Arizona State.  The report is available at The Center’s Web site.