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How far are we from our ideal?

Many consider the US News and World Report rankings to be an important indicator of the quality of an educational program. This ranking is compiled from a survey of ECE department chairs in 175 United States programs, with results from an averaged department quality score ranging from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). For 2014, the department’s score was 3.7 out of 5.0, the highest in recent history.

We are on the cusp of the top 10% of ranked departments and the top 10 public institutions. Ohio State ECE was the only department to achieve a score of 3.7 in 2014. Four schools tied for 14th with the next-highest score of 3.8. A score of 3.6 resulted in a seven-way tie for 19th position.

Rank out of 175 programs 24 19 26 26 20
Score (out of 5) 3.6 3.4 3.5 3.5 3.6
Rank out of 175 programs 22 22 19 18  
Score (out of 5) 3.6 3.6 3.6 3.7  


It is worth noting that the nation’s top programs are dominated by public university departments with large faculties and by elite private universities. 

Data shows ECE program reputation is related to the tenure track faculty size. Therefore, improving Ohio State ECE’s rank to premier status means we must employ strategies that increase our number of tenure track faculty members.

Our department faculty FTE is shown by the red line. Of the 17 departments ranked higher than Ohio State, only five have a comparable or smaller number of tenure track faculty. Of these five, three (Cal Tech, Cornell, and Princeton) are elite private universities.

Note that some of the departments listed (MIT, University of Michigan) include both computer science and electrical engineering faculty, but such cases remain larger than the current Ohio State faculty even if the numbers provided are halved.

In other cases (e.g., UCLA), computer engineering is excluded from the tenure track count when this discipline is part of a computer science department.

Although the US News and World Report graduate program ranking is only one measure of a program’s status, programs in the top 10 of this ranking are widely regarded as premier departments. Rightly or not, this ranking is used by potential students and other external parties in assessing our status and quality.

It is noted that Ohio State ECE’s undergraduate program has not been ranked in the past five years. While graduate rankings are provided for the top 100 programs, undergraduate rankings are only given for the top 20 programs. In general, undergraduate program rankings are very similar to the graduate program rankings, although a few private universities such as Rice and Northwestern have a significantly higher ranking for their undergraduate program, thereby displacing the public universities.