A new National Academy of Sciences evaluation of graduate engineering programs nationwide gives high marks to only two programs offered in the Washington region: the University of Maryland's graduate program in electrical engineering and Johns Hopkins University's mechanical engineering program.
Other engineering programs at Maryland and Hopkins rate about average in the new report on graduate programs around the country.
The University of Virginia and Virginia Polytechnic Institute rank about at the middle for the programs evaluated, which include civil and chemical engineering. Catholic University, the only other area school rated, ranks lower.
Nationally, the top-ranked schools for engineering were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley, followed by Stanford and the California Institute of Technology.
The new report is the third installment in a massive evaluation of university doctoral and research programs covering 32 academic fields. It does not evaluate undergraduate engineering courses or graduate programs that grant only small numbers of doctoral degrees.
Besides the National Academy of Sciences, the evaluation project is sponsored by the American Council on Education, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Science Research Council. The evaluations are based on a survey of 5,000 faculty members around the country, including 579 in engineering.
In earlier reports, the University of Maryland received strong ratings in computer science, mathematics, physics, and art history, but it was substantially lower in most of the humanities, fields in which the University of Virginia was rated among the nation's best.
John B. Slaughter, chancellor of the main Maryland campus at College Park, said the school's high rank in electrical engineering -- 15th out of 90 universities rated -- reflects "a strong commitment to that field over the years."
In mechanical, civil and chemical engineering, Maryland ranked at about the middle for the programs evaluated.
The new series of reports is the first comprehensive evaluation of graduate programs in the United States since a study in 1970 by the American Council on Education.
Although the new reports, unlike the 1970 study, give no numerical rankings, they do present average scores on the reputation for scholarship and teaching in each department, which can be used to make comparisons.
By this measure the University of Maryland was 15th in electrical engineering, and eighth among public universities rated in that field. It was 36th in mechanical engineering, where Hopkins was 13th, and 44th in both civil and chemical engineering.
In the 1970 report, Maryland received no ranking in any engineering field because it scored below the top 20 to 30 schools specifically ranked in each one. Johns Hopkins ranked 13th in electrical engineering.