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University rankings under fire as top law schools quit the system | This Week in Admissions News

24 NOV 2022

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, top law schools in the US, including Yale, Harvard and Stanford, have announced they will no longer participate in the US News and World Report’s annual rankings. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!


University rankings under fire as top law schools quit the system

Law school admissions have seen an unprecedented week as more than 14 of the top law schools have announced they will pull out of the US News & World Report’s annual rankings, Reuters reported. Further, an American Bar Association panel voted to drop a requirement that law school applicants take the LSAT or another standardized admissions test, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Nine of the so-called T-14 elite law schools have pledged to stop submitting internal data for the U.S. News rankings since No. 1-ranked Yale Law School kicked off the exodus last week. The list of those shunning the rankings now includes the law schools at UCLA, UC Irvine, Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, and Stanford universities. Meanwhile, U.S. News said it will continue to rank law schools even without their participation.

The deans of the boycotting law schools have said the rankings punish schools whose graduates pursue public interest jobs or advanced degrees, while rewarding those that spend more on students and drive up tuition. Legal educators have also argued that the rankings overemphasize Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages, prompting schools to offer merit scholarships over need-based assistance. “The rankings rely on flawed survey techniques and opaque and arbitrary formulas, lacking the transparency needed to help applicants make truly informed decisions,” wrote Kerry Abrams, dean of Duke Law. The methodology creates “perverse incentives,” wrote Jenny Martinez, Stanford Law School’s dean.

College rankings have always been a topic of criticism by many experts, saying they put too much emphasis on standardized test scores and do not take into account a lot of other factors. The methodology has also come under fire, with Columbia University dropping from No. 2 to No. 18 after it was revealed that some of the data, including undergraduate class size and the percentage of faculty with the highest degree in their field, had been inaccurate. However, despite the obvious criticisms, many law schools - especially those that are ranked below 20 - might not be able to abandon the rankings. 

Making admissions tests-optional will also allow more students to access law school applications the New York Times has reported. The ABA’s ruling still has to be voted on and if the change passes, it will only be implemented in 2025. All this happens, as the US Supreme Court is debating whether to strike down affirmative action in admissions.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. An initial report by the Common Application points to a substantial increase in the number of students applying to college in the US for the upcoming (2023-24) academic year. As of Nov. 1, 727,047 distinct first-year applicants had applied to 841 returning member colleges of the Common App, an increase of 26% from 2019–20. Total application volume rose 41% from 2019–20 (2,030,120) to 2022–23 (2,764,654). However, the number of students reporting test scores continued to drop despite Covid restrictions lifting in many places.
  2. Asian universities are becoming more prestigious, with Chinese institutions becoming some of the world’s strongest academic brands and Japan boosting its higher education reputation, according to the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. Universities in Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea are also gaining more prestige, according to the ranking based on a survey of over 29,000 leading academics. An exception on the continent is India, which saw more universities drop down the ranking than rise.
  3. Visa processing times globally are continuing to impact the recovery of the international education sector, the PIE News has reported. Canada continues to be the most disadvantaged over other popular study destinations. The UK continues to be the strongest performer on perception of visa processing times, with some 78% rating it as good/very good, according to the latest Navitas Agent Perception Survey. Australia improved slightly and the US deteriorated slightly.
  4. Hundreds of schools in England have been downgraded after being re-inspected for the first time in years, the Independent reported. Watchdog Ofsted said it inspected more than 500 schools in the last academic year that were previously exempt from regular inspection, having been rated outstanding. Just 17% of the 370 schools which had a graded inspection retained their outstanding grade when they were re-inspected in the 2021-22 academic year, Ofsted said.
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