The National Research Council (NRC) has just released its latest appraisal of American doctoral programs, and the results are truly impressive: UCLA's Department of Musicology received the highest rating of any doctoral program in the field of Music (non-Performance). Musicology is also UCLA's highest-ranked doctoral program – in any discipline.

The NRC rankings are the "gold standard" for comparing Ph.D. programs in the arts, humanities, and science; the undertaking is so massive and the data so complex that they are calculated only once a decade or so. This ranking is based largely on data collected in 2006, and is thus in some sense a snapshot of the department's recent past – but it is a very flattering picture indeed, representing a meteoric rise in the department's reputation since the last assessment (We were ranked at #18 in 1995).


The rankings:

The NRC's methodology has been exhaustively debated, as only a community of research professionals can, and this new ranking is, according to the Council, based on a much more objective data-set covering a wider span of metrics than in previous rankings (1982, 1995). There are two scales used, an "R-rating" that measured "reputation" using various metrics, and an "S-rating" that included many statistics about student support, experience, and outcomes.

The rankings are expressed as a pair of numbers spanning a range, somewhere within which the "actual" ranking can be imagined to fall. Some programs were assigned quite wide ranges, indicating disagreement about the strength of a given program.

There was no significant disagreement about UCLA's Department of Musicology. Here are the rankings:

R-ranking: 1-2 (i.e., a range from first to second)

S-ranking: 1-3 (i.e., a range from first to third)

In the R-ranking, we are the highest ranked Music Ph.D. program (non-performance) in the entire country; in the S-ranking, we are effectively tied statistically with the Ethnomusicology program at Indiana University for first place. This is an extraordinary result!

Some other interesting facts about these rankings:

1. We are the only program in the UCLA Humanities Division to be ranked unequivocally at the top of our discipline.

2. We are the highest rated musicology program in the UC system.

3. We are the only department at UCLA in ANY discipline to get the R-ranking "1-2."


A collective achievement

This achievement is a testament to the excellent leadership of the Musicology department in the years leading up to the NRC assessment, especially from department chairs Susan McClary (1994-1998), Robert Walser (1998-2006), and Raymond Knapp (2006-2009).

It is a strong testament to the hard work of the entire faculty, most of whose careers and scholarly vitae blossomed dramatically during the fifteen years since the last NRC ranking in 1995. (In that assessment, based on data from 1993, UCLA Musicology was ranked 18th in the country.)

It is also a very strong testament to the impressive achievements of our Ph.D. graduates, whose record of publication and placement was instrumental in pushing us to the top of the rankings.

And it is an unequivocal testament to the mentoring and material resources we continue to devote to our current students: the fact that we fund all students with multiple-year packages, give full fellowships to all first-year students, and that our flexible program and careful advising keeps our attrition rate very low, and encourages students finish their degrees in a timely and efficient fashion.


More information

The complete dataset and interpretive tools on the National Academies web site:

Frequently Asked Questions:

UCLA's Press Release regarding the NRC Assessment: