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EDUCATION

Brown Medical School withdraws from U.S. News rankings

“At their worst, they perpetuate a culture of rewarding the most elite and historically privileged groups,” the dean of Brown’s medical school said of the publication’s education rankings

An entrance to Brown University in Providence, R.I.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — The medical school at Brown University is withdrawing from the U.S. News & World Report education rankings, joining a long list of universities this year that said they would no longer provide data to the publication.

Officials at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown said Tuesday the rankings “do not align” with the university’s values, including Brown’s measures of what constitutes quality preparation for medical students.

Dr. Mukesh K. Jain, Brown’s dean of medicine and senior vice president for health affairs, said the decision to withdraw was based on “the flawed methodology” of the rankings. He also said the rankings, which evaluate schools on a variety of metrics and include data that is self-reported by the schools themselves, have “negative consequences on medical education.”

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“Central to Brown’s decision to end participation is our belief that such quantitative rankings do not adequately capture the quality of education nor the level of support provided to students at any medical school,” wrote Jain in a letter to Brown’s medical community on Tuesday, which was obtained by the Globe. “The rankings also do not reflect the unique foci and missions of all medical schools, instead ranking them on factors that are not equally valued by all schools.

“At their worst, they perpetuate a culture of rewarding the most elite and historically privileged groups,” he added.

The change will take effect in 2024. The 2023 rankings published in May, in which Brown’s medical school ranked No. 35 for research and No. 17 for primary care.

In spite of the withdrawal, Brown’s medical school will likely continue to place in the rankings, Jain said. U.S. News has continued to rank schools that do not submit data, he said, using publicly available information about the school and surveys that were completed in previous years.

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First launched in the 1940s as a weekly publication, U.S. News ceased its print product in 2010 to focus on its annual rankings and other digital content. The outlet generates a portion of its revenue by selling its annual Best College guidebooks, subscriptions to Academic Insights, marketing materials including badges for its various rankings, and by charging $40 a month to prospective university students for access to detailed school data.

Robert Morse, the chief data strategist for U.S. News who oversees education-related rankings, did not respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday. Instead, a spokeswoman for the company provided a statement from U.S. News Executive Chairman and CEO Eric Gertler that the publication has repeatedly used since at least January to respond to press inquiries.

Gertler did not respond to the claims made by Brown, to the news of the medical school’s withdrawal from the rankings, or to questions related to the sustainability of U.S. News’s rankings. Instead, he pointed to the “more competitive and less transparent” admissions processes in higher education, and described publication’s rankings as an important tool for students.

“We know that comparing diverse academic institutions across a common data set is challenging, and that is why we have consistently stated that the rankings should be one component in a prospective student’s decision-making process,” Gertler said in the statement. His uncle, real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman, owns the online publication and serves as its editor-in-chief emeritus. “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.”

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In November 2022, Yale Law School announced it would not provide data for U.S. News’s law school rankings, and more than a dozen top-ranked schools, including Yale and Georgetown, followed suit. Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley was the first official at a top medical school to drop out of U.S. News’s rankings; Stanford University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai soon followed.

Critics have long said the rankings have created incentives for institutions to set policies that boost their ratings instead of focusing on “nobler objectives,” and divert financial aid from students with financial need to high-scoring students with means. The rankings, critics say, also rely “too much” on grades and test scores of accepted students, and the reputation of schools among academicians. Questions have been raised about inaccurate, self-reported data.

In September 2022, the publication demoted Columbia University to No. 18 from No. 2 in its annual list after a questions over whether the school had submitted inaccurate statistics. The university’s initial No. 2 status was first questioned by a Columbia math professor, who accused the school of submitting “highly misleading” data. The university said it “miscalculated” the data.

The shake up of higher education rankings induced U.S. News to reform its methodology for its law school rankings in January. In April, U.S. News unveiled changes to its medical school methodology that reduced the overall weight of reputational surveys and test scores.

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At Brown medical school, Jain said U.S. News’s rankings lacked metrics that examined how much student support a university provides, what amenities and systems student can access, and how they fare after graduation.

The lack of those metrics, he said, “demonstrate a clear misunderstanding of what truly impacts medical education.”


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.