Carnegie demotes RPI classification from highest rating

In the 2015 update of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, Rensselaer saw its ranking among research institutions fall from the “highest” classification to “higher” in the category of “doctoral universities—higher research activity.”

Although the Carnegie Classifications are not well-known by applying students and average consumers, they are referenced by analysts and government officials as a way to categorize the thousands of universities in the United States.

Universities that joined the highest research activity classification—more commonly referred to as the R1 classification—include Boston College, Clemson University, Florida International University, and the University of Mississippi. Universities that accompanied Rensselaer in the change to the higher research activity classification—also known as the R2 classification—include Rockefeller University, Yeshiva University, North Dakota State University, and the University of Alabama.

The Poly reached out via email to Vice President for Research Dr. Jonathan Dordick to provide insight into the change.

“Being a technological university, we are extremely strong in science and engineering, but quite small in humanities and social sciences (professional schools such as architecture and management are in a separate category),” said Dordick.

He explained that the classification system instituted a change to “the algorithm Carnegie used to categorize the amount of non-STEM and STEM research expenditures and Ph.D. degrees awarded.”

Dordick noted that Rockefeller University, the highest-ranked university in the “Science and Engineering expenditures per faculty” category, was also downgraded to R2 for a lack of non-STEM research, and also that Rensselaer’s classification as R1 was unusual.

Additionally, Rensselaer’s research statistics took a positive turn. Dordick explained that, “since the last classification update, the amount of research expenditure reported by Rensselaer actually increased from $77.9 million to $80.4 million, placing us on a per-faculty basis (one of the key normalizations used in the classification) in the top 50 percent of the universities classified as R1.”

Dordick said that “Rensselaer recognizes the need to build not only STEM but non-STEM,” and that programs that are guided by this principle are being instituted in all Rensselaer schools. “These programs include Art_X, the Cognitive and Immersive Systems Lab (CISL@EMPAC), and the Summer Arch.

“We look forward to continuing to build both our STEM and non-STEM research programs that involve all our students … that will bring Rensselaer closer to achieving our goal of being a broad-based comprehensive research university.”