The road to Washington is paved with elite educations. Indeed, for young people hoping to secure jobs in Foggy Bottom, on Pennsylvania Avenue, and elsewhere in the foreign-policy establishment, a key ingredient to success is often a diploma in international relations (IR) from one of America’s top universities. There are debates to be had about this model—how the pipeline can become more affordable, for instance, to ensure greater diversity among government hires. Scholars and policymakers alike rightly agree, however, that language skills, expertise about regions of the world, and other knowledge gleaned in the classroom make for a stronger, more effective corps of foreign-policy wonks. So which schools prepare students best?
The results of the 2014 Ivory Tower survey—a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project at the College of William & Mary—provide an insider’s guide. Responses from 1,615 IR scholars drawn from 1,375 U.S. colleges and universities determined rankings for the leading Ph.D., terminal master’s, and undergraduate programs in IR. (The scholars were asked to list the top five institutions in each category.) The survey also quizzed respondents about recent historical events and future policy challenges: Just how plausible is a U.S. war with China, for example, and who was the most effective secretary of state over the past 50 years? (Hint: Neither Condoleezza Rice nor John Kerry.)
All told, the Ivory Tower survey offers a window into how America’s top IR scholars see the world today—and which institutions are effectively nurturing future generations of thinkers and policymakers.