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Why have Harvard and Yale withdrawn from law school rankings?

In response to concerns the methodology used, both schools have decided to parts ways with US News & World Report rankings.

Harvard and Yale withdraw from law school rankings
Maddie MeyerAFP

Two of the most prestigious names in education have announced a joint decision to withdraw from the influential US News and World Report rankings of the best law schools in the country.

On Wednesday both Harvard and Yale law schools announced that they would no longer be cooperating with the rankings body, citing concerns over the reliability of and potential damage caused by the existing system.

John F. Manning, the dean of Harvard Law, said in a statement: “It has become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the US News rankings reflect.”

The letters published by both schools allege that the methodology used gives counter-productive incentives to schools, which could negatively affect the quality of teaching provided.

They also claim that the system does not take into account the efforts made by some schools to recruit students from poorer backgrounds and to provide financial aid when needed. Statements from the deans of both schools said that they had decided to withdraw from the rankings process after their attempts to amend the system had been dismissed.

How will Harvard and Yale withdrawing affect college rankings?

While the two institutions are along the most highly-respected in the world of higher education, the instant impact of the announcement may be less severe than some will imagine.

The withdrawal only applies to their respective law schools, not the college as a whole. And while they had previously provided the ranking data themselves much of it is freely available anyway, so they could still be included if the rankings organisers decided to do so.

It is also true that schools with such a powerful brand are less reliant on rankings to entice prospective students. Both Harvard and Yale law schools will retain a prominence that few other institutions can match, it is normally the lesser-known schools that rely on rankings.

US News have issued a response to the decision to withdraw, but insisted that their process was helping students to receive the best education possible.

The US News Best Law Schools rankings are for students seeking the best decision for their law education. We will continue to fulfill our journalistic mission of ensuring that students can rely on the best and most accurate information in making that decision,” said Eric Gertler, the executive chairman and CEO of US News.

“As part of our mission, we must continue to ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide to these students and that mission does not change with this recent announcement.”


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