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Graduate Programs Climb U.S. News & World Report Rankings

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s education program has moved up 25 places and the public affairs program climbed nine spots on the U.S. News & World Report list of "2023 Best Graduate Schools.” Two other programs – part-time MBA and social work – were also ranked, and UNCW’s geology program made the list in the first year for its category.   

Beyond the six major disciplines ranked annually, U.S. News also periodically ranks programs in the sciences, social sciences and humanities, health, and many other fields based solely on academic experts' ratings. 

"We are pleased to be recognized nationally once again for UNCW's graduate school excellence and innovation," said Dr. James Winebrake, provost. "UNCW remains committed to growth with quality, adding selective doctoral and graduate programs that are attracting some of the nation's top researchers and faculty and preparing our current and future students to become tomorrow's workforce in North Carolina and beyond." 

The Best Graduate Schools rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinion about program excellence and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school's faculty, research and students. The MBA and education rankings are based on academic and institutional data submitted by the schools, as well as peer assessment. The geology, public affairs and social work programs are ranked based on peer assessment. 

Earlier this year, UNCW graduate programs were also recognized by U.S. News & World Report among the top online programs of 2022. In particular, the UNCW master’s in nursing online program made it on several U.S. News national lists, breaking the top 50 overall for “Best Online Master’s in Nursing.”  

Additionally, for the first time, the nursing program was ranked for both “Best Online Master’s in Nursing for Veterans” (top 20) and “Best Online Master’s in Nursing Education Programs” (top 10). 

Two additional UNCW online graduate programs ranked in the 2022 top online programs report, selected once again for “Best Online Master’s of Business” and “Best Online Master’s in Education.” 

“We’re very proud that our commitment to building excellent graduate programs that are responsive to state and regional needs is being recognized,” said Dr. Christopher Finelli, graduate school dean and associate provost for graduate education and lifelong learning. “Our faculty are truly outstanding, and that is seen in the high quality of the students that UNCW attracts and the success of our students upon graduation.” 

U.S. News & World Report also recognized UNCW as one of only three UNC System schools among the Top 100 Public National Universities in its “Best Colleges 2022” list. This is the third year that UNCW has made this list, following the university’s elevation in 2018 to the category of “Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity” in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University are the other two UNC Systems schools on the Top 100 list. 

Other major publications have also recognized UNCW. The university was named a 2022 Best Southeastern School by the Princeton Review and was one of only four UNC System schools featured in the 2022 Fiske Guide to Colleges, the best-selling college guide that profiles 300 of the “best and most interesting” colleges and universities in the nation.  

Guided by its Strategic Plan, UNCW continually develops and refines academic programs to prepare students for careers in emerging industries and fields in which skilled employees are in high demand. UNCW currently offers 58 majors, 37 master’s degrees and five doctoral degrees. Doctoral programs include Marine BiologyEducational Leadership, Psychology, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences. 

As UNCW programs continue to grow, student enrollment continues to climb. Current UNCW enrollment figures are at an all-time high and have steadily increased by 40% over the past 12 years from 12,924 in fall 2009 to 18,030 in fall 2021. Distance education student enrollment is also rapidly growing, more than tripling in six years from 1,369 in fall 2015 to 4,382 in fall 2021. Graduate student enrollment has more than doubled from 1,333 to 3,542 since 2009.