While the U.S. News and World Report doesn’t consider the University to be the Leader or the Best, the publication does think the institution is improving.

The University has climbed one spot since last year — up to number 28 — on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best national colleges of 2012. The University’s new ranking ends a downward trend over the past five years.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald explained the trend by noting the schools that have outranked the University in recent years are mostly private institutions. However, the University has held its place at number four among the nation’s public schools for the fourth consecutive year.

“Our ranking among public universities has been very stable,” Fitzgerald said. “I suspect that among (U.S. News and World Report’s) calculations there’s something there that favors private universities.”

Fitzgerald added that the University’s improvement on the 2012 report is not necessarily an indicator of what the institution’s future rankings will be.

“What we’ve seen as well is that sometimes what gets emphasized from year to year can change, so it can actually change the methodology of the rankings and it can affect the rank given to any university,” he said. “So it’s just really, really unpredictable.”

Fitzgerald said he is pleased to see the University rank highly among the nation’s public universities. However, he said he doesn’t believe rankings are the best guidelines for students to use when selecting a university.

The rankings vary from year to year, and there are various rankings published each year, with each emphasizing unique factors, Fitzgerald said.

“Where you go to school or where one of your friends goes to school can be wildly different than just the absolute rank place,” he said. “It’s a very individual-based decision.”

Fitzgerald added that the University does not consider its rank in a publication to be a priority.

“It’s not something that we focus on at all,” he said. “We think the most important factor for the quality of a university is the quality of its faculty, of its teaching and of the research that happens here — that’s where we put our emphasis.”

According to the report, the University ranks third among the nation’s undergraduate business programs and sixth in undergraduate engineering programs.

Among graduate programs, the Ross School of Business ranks 14th in the country and the School of Education and College of Engineering rank ninth. The Law School has moved up two places this year to number seven in the nation, while the Medical School ranks 20th for primary care and 10th for research.

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