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Major medical schools follow Harvard’s lead and pull out of US News rankings

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A number of medical schools, including Columbia, Stanford and Penn State, have followed Harvard’s lead and withdrawn from U.S. News & World Report medical school rankings.

The schools have all offered similar explanations, arguing that the criteria used to generate rankings do not reward the best learning environments and that its preferences are overly influenced by the prestige and wealth of schools.

It comes just two months after Yale Law School pulled out of the U.S. News law school rankings, which it had topped for 32 years, saying that the list discourages financial aid for low-income students.

The US News list ranks the ‘best medical schools’ in the country, and is often used by prospective students and parents when determining which colleges to apply to. 

It can also influence students’ chances when applying for jobs, graduate school and PhD programs, as those who come from the best schools appear to be the most desirable candidates.

This spree of boycotts will see universities cut ties with the U.S. News & World Report, mainly by ceasing to provide it with the data it needs to create its current rankings.

Columbia’s medical school was first to make the move after Harvard, announcing its decision on January 20

The schools have said that the criteria used to generate rankings do not reward the best learning environments and that its preferences are overly influenced by the prestige and wealth

Columbia’s medical school was first to make the move after Harvard, announcing its decision on January 20, followed by Stanford a few days later on the 23rd and Penn State on the 24th. Later that day the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai also withdrew.

The dean of Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Katrina Armstrong said in a statement that the incentives of the rankings are ‘misaligned with the highest goals of medical education’, and that they ‘perpetuate a narrow and elitist perspective’.

U.S. News has two separate annual rankings for medical schools, one focused on research and another on primary care training. Harvard Medical School was at the top of the research ranking when the 2023 results came out in May.

When it announced its withdrawal on January 17, its dean, George Daley, cited ‘philosophical’ concerns.

Daley wrote in a statement that the ranking system creates ‘perverse incentives’ for schools to submit misleading data to boost their positions and to divert financial aid away from those with financial need to higher scoring students.

He said he had been contemplating the decision for six years and was inspired by the dean of Harvard Law School, who pulled his school from the lists very soon after Yale last year.

The statement put out by Icahn School of Medicine suggested that U.S. News would still rank schools. ‘In the near term, U.S. news is likely to continue ranking schools that have withdrawn by using publicly available data,’ wrote its president and dean in a joint statement.

Harvard was at the top of the ranking when the 2023 results came out last May

U.S. News’ Chairman and CEO Eric Gertler said that ‘where students attend school and how they use their education are among the most critical decisions of their life’

Dean of Penn State’s Perelman School of Medicine, J. Larry Jameson, suggested that its decision to boycott the rankings was altruistic

Lloyd Minor, dean of Stanford School of Medicine, said that the U.S. News & World Report ‘Best Medical Schools’ ranking ‘does not capture the full extent of what makes for an exceptional learning environment.’

Minor announced that it would take its own measures to help inform potntial students. ‘To help prospective students better evaluate their options, starting March 1, 2023, we will begin independently reporting data about our medical school’s performance,’ he wrote.

‘Our metrics will reflect and assess the efforts and accomplishments of our faculty in education, research, and patient care as well as the innovation and impact of faculty and trainees on biomedicine and their roles in developing tomorrow’s leaders.’ 

The day after Harvard’s announcement it would no longer submit data, U.S. News’ Chairman and CEO Eric Gertler made his own statement, saying that ‘where students attend school and how they use their education are among the most critical decisions of their life.’

‘The fact is, millions of prospective students annually visit U.S. News medical school rankings because we provide students with valuable data and solutions to help with that process,’ he wrote.

Icahn School of Medicine which withdrew on January 24 suggested that U.S. News would still try and rank schools using publicly available data

The dean of Yale Law School, Heather Gerken, argued last year when she led the first major boycott of U.S News lists that they were ‘profoundly flawed’ 

Dean of Penn State’s Perelman School of Medicine, J. Larry Jameson, suggested that its decision to boycott the rankings was altruistic.

‘While the Perelman School of Medicine has consistently ranked well by these measures, and we are proud of our reputation, we aspire to be judged more on our innovation, impact, the far-reaching accomplishments of our faculty and graduates, and our ability to keep our sights forward,’ he wrote. 

The dean of Yale Law School, Heather Gerken, argued last year when she led the first major boycott of U.S News lists that they were ‘profoundly flawed.’ 

‘They disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession,’ she said.

‘Its approach not only fails to advance the legal profession, but stands squarely in the way of progress.’

However, some medical schools have held their positions. ‘Like a number of our peer medical students, we have concerns about the impact such rankings have on the decisions made by students,’ a spokesperson for John Hopkins Medicine told the New York Observer in a statement.

‘At this time, we are still sending information to U.S. News & World Report, but, as we do each year, we will consider our future participation.’ 



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