College News

UW-Madison falls from top-five ranking for research universities

UW-Madison has fallen from its top-five ranking in the nation’s best research universities for the first time in 45 years.

Image By: Leah Voskuil

UW-Madison has dropped from its spot in the nation’s top five research institutions for the first time since 1972, following a few tumultuous years of declining state investment in Wisconsin’s flagship university.

After 45 years as one of the top five research schools in the country, data from the National Science Foundation bumped UW-Madison’s ranking from fourth to sixth due to lower research activity in the 2015 fiscal year—just under $1.1 billion in annual spending for all fields of research.

A university release Tuesday said the school is still a “research powerhouse,” but acknowledged that steep state budget cuts have challenged its ability to recruit top faculty and researchers.

“This is a highly competitive environment,” said Marsha Mailick, UW-Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education and the university’s top research officer, in the release. “The numbers show that our faculty and staff are highly successful, although continued disinvestment by the state is having an impact on our ability to compete.”

The school spent roughly $23.6 million in the last fiscal year to hold onto such faculty members, a difficult task as support for public higher education in other states has been on the upswing and efforts to poach UW-Madison’s best faculty and researchers are strong.

Campus leaders have previously warned that continued disinvestment in the school could hurt its elite research status and have asked the legislature to reinvest in the university during the state’s upcoming biennial budget.

“We are extremely proud of our faculty, staff and students,” Mailick said in the release. “But if Wisconsin is to remain at the pinnacle of American research universities, the state will need to reinvest to be sure we have the faculty positions and conditions necessary to attract and retain the best researchers.”

Gov. Scott Walker tweeted Monday that the budget would provide additional funding for schools within the UW System, but it is not yet clear how much of that funding could be tied to performance metrics.

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