Boston College is ranked the seventh best school in the world for Theology, Divinity & Religious Studies, a three-place improvement from last year, according to a University release.
Kenneth Himes, acting chair of the theology department, believes BC’s placement in the 2021 QS World University Rankings is in large part due to the strong reputation of its faculty. Leaders in the field of theology are most attracted to schools that have doctoral programs, and BC is one of a few schools to offer them, according to Himes.
“We have a faculty here that is very productive in terms of scholarship,” Himes said. “We’re people who regularly are writing for peer-reviewed journals, who are being invited to contribute chapters in edited books, who are writing books themselves, who are speaking at conferences or invited to give lectures at other universities.”
BC earned an 86.3 out of 100 in its overall score, a 1.1 point decrease from BC’s 2020 score of 87.4.
Despite its score decrease, BC rose in the rankings in large part due to significant point decreases from the University of Chicago, Yale University, and the University of Cambridge. The University of Chicago fell from 87.7 to 82.4, Yale fell from 90 to 86.2, and Cambridge fell from 91.5 to 86.1.
Himes posited that the trend of lower overall scores is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the uncertainty of job prospects in academia after the pandemic, schools have exercised caution and lowered the number of students they are bringing into their graduate programs, which may have hurt their scores.
“There were real concerns about … what’s this going to do to the economy?” Himes said. “Will schools be hiring the same way they were hiring before? Will schools want to stay put and get a lay of the land post-pandemic before they make decisions about hiring?”
The QS Theology, Divinity & Religious Studies rankings, launched in 2017, are based on academic reputation, employer reputation, research impact, and h-index. The h-index measures the impact of research and the productivity of the department or school.
Other top 10 schools include Harvard University, Duke University, University of Oxford, Durham University, and Yale. BC is one of three Catholic universities in the top 10, alongside the University of Notre Dame and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, which ranked first and sixth, respectively.
Himes believes BC did well in the employer reputation category because the school has been very successful in getting its doctoral students full-time and tenure-track positions at various universities.
“We have a very good success rate about getting people into tenure-track positions at other schools when they graduate from BC,” Himes said. “That’s the gold standard in terms of getting people jobs—not just a job as a part-time teacher or an adjunct teacher, but you’re getting people hired in tenure-track positions that they really see as their career path.”
QS considered both the School of Theology and Ministry and department of theology when calculating BC’s placement, according to the University release.
Himes cited the theology department’s willingness to adapt to modern needs and demands as another reason why the department has garnered such a strong reputation.
This is evident in the department’s new emphasis on interdisciplinary studies at the undergraduate level, but also in the doctoral program’s new sub-specialization in healthcare ethics, which launched just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Himes said.
“People would come and be trained rigorously academically in the field of theological ethics, but then they would go off and be not in the world of higher education, but they would be hired by healthcare systems to serve as ethical advisors and ethical guidance people for healthcare professionals in the various ethical dilemmas that arise there,” Himes said.
Featured Image by Maddy Romance / Heights Editor