Lecture hall.
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Ranking universities might seem like intellectual inside baseball, an academic game of interest only to professors and to prospective students. But these rankings are more important than most people realize, particularly since institutions of higher education are meant both to engage in the disinterested pursuit of knowledge and to serve a broader societal purpose—in the case of international relations, to inform good policies.

The National Research Council (NRC) rankings of Graduate Programs are today’s gold standard; climbing them is one of the most important goals there is for a university. But the NRC approach siloes academic disciplines and discourages real-world relevance among scholars. It encourages political science departments, in particular, to slight the subfield of international relations and other policy-relevant areas in favor of narrower academic concerns.

This trend worries some distinguished political scientists, including MIT’s Stephen Van Evera, who deplores that much of academia is now

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  • PETER CAMPBELL is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of political science at the University of Notre Dame. MICHAEL C. DESCH is professor and chair of the department of political science at the University of Notre Dame.
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