UNC-Chapel Hill ranked eleventh among all graduate programs in history in US News and World Report’s most recent rankings, published in March 2021. It also received high rankings in a number of individual subfields, reaching tenth in African-American history, twelfth in European history, tenth in Latin American history, seventh in modern US history, eighth in US colonial history, and ninth in women’s history, and coming behind only three other public universities in the overall history rankings.
While US News and World Report’s rankings of undergraduate programs and professional schools use a complex methodology, including statistical indicators such as acceptance and graduation rates, student test scores, student-faculty ratio, and graduate employment, its ranking of humanities and social science graduate programs is based exclusively on surveys of senior faculty members at peer institutions. These faculty members rated individual departments according to their academic quality on a 5-point scale. UNC-Chapel Hill and four other universities — Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas-Austin, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison — received an average score of 4.4. Respondents are also asked to identify up to fifteen programs with particular strengths in specific subfields, which are then ranked according to their number of nominations. Unfortunately, some of the subfields in which UNC-Chapel Hill’s history department is especially strong — including military history, global history, and Russian, East European, and Eurasian history — are not ranked by US News and World Report.
For those applying to doctoral programs in history, a department’s overall US News and World Report ranking is far less important than its individual faculty members and academic resources. Both students and faculty express skepticism about the significance of such subjective impressions, even when presented in quantitative form. A numerical rating based on survey data can hardly convey the quality of the work done in the department by students, faculty, and staff. “While rankings only imperfectly capture the many virtues of our department,” said Department Chair Lisa Lindsay, “this recognition is gratifying nonetheless.” Its consistent position among the top doctoral programs in history confirms our department’s excellent reputation among historians and demonstrates it to those outside the field, both within the university and in the broader public.
Professor Suzanne E. Barbour, Dean of the Graduate School, echoed widespread sentiment within Pauli Murray Hall that the ranking reflects the faculty’s commitment to excellence in graduate education, and on the superior scholarship of doctoral students enrolled in the program. “The Department of History has an international reputation for excellence in research, scholarship and training of the next generation of historians. It is wonderful that this excellence has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report.” Dean Barbour adds that the ranking also represents a validation of the significant effort the department has invested in recent years into implementing feedback graduate students have provided about their experience on campus. “The Graduate School looks forward to working with the department as it builds on its excellent foundations.” It is wonderful that this excellence has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report.