Depending on who you ask, the University of Texas at Austin is either the 45th best university in the country, or it's the 186th. Texas A&M University-College Station is either the 58th, or it's the 178th. The practice of ranking colleges and universities has become pervasive, but interpreting them can be difficult since no two publications take the same approach.
Today, U.S. News & World Report released its annual list, arguably the most influential (and one of the most controversial, particularly among university administrators). Here's a sampling of how Texas institutions fared on the list of best national universities: Rice University is 17th, UT-Austin is 45th, A&M is 58th, Southern Methodist University is 62nd, Baylor University is 75th, Texas Christian University is 97th, University of Texas-Dallas is 143rd, and Texas Tech University is 160th.
For those keeping score, that's a bump up in the rankings for A&M, Baylor, and TCU (from 63rd, 79th, and 99th, respectively). The rankings of UT-Austin, Rice, and UT-Dallas stayed level from last year. And SMU and Texas Tech both dropped slightly (from 56th and 159th).
It's a big difference, for example, from the recent rankings from Forbes, in which UT was 186th, A&M was 178th, SMU was 123rd, the private University of Dallas was 103rd, and Rice was 28th. Different still are the rankings from Washington Monthly, which put A&M in 15th, UT-Austin at 19th, Rice at 22nd, and Baylor at 80th. Others putting out college rankings include Newsweek, QS, Gawker (sort of), TheBestColleges.org, and many others.