Quick Links

Departmental rankings & evaluations

Determining departmental rankings

Ideally, the departmental rankings should not be done by one person.  Some units do these by committee; smaller units may want to have a two-person team consisting of the current and past GPD.  The committee members should have substantial experience in reviewing student applications. It makes sense to spend more time on the evaluations of the top-ranked students, knowing that applicants lower down will probably not be considered to go forward. 

It is possible that the people writing the departmental evaluations may not have any information on the applicant beyond that in the application.  In this case it is useful for the department to gather further information on the applicant from supervisors, or course instructors (it would be helpful, for example, if a course instructor or supervisor said that student “z” was the best student he/she had ever taught).

Departmental evaluations

The objective of the departmental evaluation is to provide supplementary information that justifies the department’s ranking of the student.  This evaluation will routinely explain the applicant’s qualifications relative to the cohort, but it may also provide additional information that does not appear anywhere else in the application. 

The Departmental evaluation is an extremely important element in determining which applications go forward to the University adjudication committee.  The information accompanying the rankings is taken seriously by the committee, and perfunctory statements or indecisive judgments do not aid either the applicant or committee.

Inclusions in effective departmental evaluations

  • Why student 'X' was ranked higher than student 'Y' (this should be done positively; negative comments such as “student 'Z' was ranked lower than student 'U' may  hurt an applicant’s chances).
  • Any personal comments that might be helpful, including information about academic career anomalies, such as difficult episodes in the student's past that he/she has overcome.
  • Comments about the student’s potential.
  • Information about awards, conference papers, publications and other academic or scholarly contributions by the student.
  • The departmental evaluations should highlight particularly notable contributions, and if possible, contextualize them. For instance, they might say, "in our discipline, it is unusual to publish so early in the academic career," or "this article is published in a very high impact journal,” or “attending an international conference at this stage of the student’s career is quite an achievement,”  etc.

Highlighting notable contributions

The departmental evaluations should highlight particularly notable contributions, and if possible, contextualize them. For instance, they might say, "in our discipline, it is unusual to publish so early in the academic career," or "this article is published in a very high impact journal,” or “attending an international conference at this stage of the student’s career is quite an achievement,”  etc.