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WVU now among top research institutions

West Virginia University is now a top-tier institution for doctoral research, according to a new classification that distinguishes colleges in America.

WVU is one of 115 universities with the highest research activity level in the 2015 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which was released Thursday. The classification includes rankings for more than 4,000 U.S. colleges and is updated every five years to determine which universities are most research-focused.

“If you’re in the group of 115, you’re clearly a significant player on the national research stage,” WVU President Gordon Gee said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It helps recruit faculty. It helps retain faculty. It helps us to increase the quality of the student body.”

In the classification, WVU claimed “R1” status, which is an elite ranking reserved for top-tier doctorate-granting universities like Yale, Duke and Johns Hopkins.

This year, the classification included 335 doctoral universities. Carnegie sorted colleges into that category if they granted at least 20 Ph.D.s, excluding law and medical degrees, in 2013-14. The category also includes R2 and R3 designations, for higher and moderate research activity, respectively.

Ascending to R1 status is a serious accomplishment and one universities use to market themselves.

This is the first time WVU has been an R1 school. Joining the university in moving to that category are 14 other universities, including Clemson, Northeastern and Syracuse.

“It is a significant validation,” Gee said in a statement. “And we are proud to join other Big 12 schools, major state flagships and some elite privates.”

Gee went on to say that WVU is even more proud of the research it does and its effect on West Virginia.

“Our researchers are working to reinvent the state’s economy,” he said. “They are ensuring that 1.8 million West Virginians have great health care. They are creating opportunities for our people to thrive, not merely survive. They are tackling the problems facing West Virginia and applying their knowledge to solve them.”

The Carnegie listings are used by U.S. News and World Report to determine national universities in its annual ranking of best colleges. West Virginia University is currently 175th on that list.

Gee said moving up to R1 status shows that WVU has a growing reputation on the national stage.

Last year, WVU awarded 183 doctoral research degrees.

Reach Samuel Speciale at, 304-348-7939 or follow @samueljspeciale on Twitter.

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