College News

UW-Madison shut out of top five research institutions for second consecutive year

UW-Madison once again ranked sixth for research according to the 2016 Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey.

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After 42 years of being ranked among the top five research universities in the country, UW-Madison remained at number six after dropping out of the top five last fall.

In 2016, the university fell from fourth to sixth — the first time Madison was not in the top five research universities since 1972 — the first year of the 2016 Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey.

Natasha Kassulke, manager of strategic communications for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, told The Daily Cardinal that UW-Madison’s high ranking remains a source of pride and that the university will pursue measures to continue make Madison an environment that nurtures research.

Before the ranking drop, a decrease in overall state funding resulted in a decline in research spending, which Kassulke said caused UW-Madison to look at ways to increase money available to researchers.

Kassulke said the efforts across campus to facilitate research are not in the name of the ranking, but in the interest of research itself.

She said UW-Madison aims to increase graduate student availability for faculty and provide practical assistance with funding application processes in the hopes of removing barriers between researchers and funds.

She identified the importance of the Wisconsin Idea as a driving motivation behind research at the university in looking to improve jobs, industry and “basic quality of life” in the state. Kassulke says that the importance of research stretches beyond the walls of the university.

Kassulke added that remaining in the top 10 is impressive, as there is a great deal of competition with other universities also aggressively pursuing research and improvements.

Other schools that placed highly in the rankings — such as the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, San Diego — have unique advantages compared to Wisconsin, according to Kassulke.

“Wisconsin does not have these big Fortune 500 companies, such as Boeing or Microsoft, that can be found on the west coast who are large sources of funding,” Kassulke said.

Kassulke said when researchers apply for funding, an institution’s ranking is not heavily weighted in the application process. Since dropping out of the top five last year, funding on research at the university has increased.

For example, data on UW-Madison’s 2016 research expenditures show the university spending nearly $1.16 billion annually for research across all fields. Federal expenditures are represented by a 6.3 percent increase from the 2015 fiscal year, roughly $34 million in new spending according to a university press release.

“The increase in expenditures and maintaining our ranking is good news for UW-Madison, showing that the needle is moving in the right direction after a four year decline in research expenditures,” said Marsha Mailick, UW-Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education, in a release. 

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