Maclean’s evaluation of overall academic excellence at universities across the country
With this year’s ranking, Maclean’s continues the mandate it established 16 years ago: to provide basic, essential information in a comprehensive package to help students choose the university that best suits their needs. The annual rankings assess Canadian universities on a diverse range of factors, from spending on student services and scholarships and bursaries, to funding for libraries and faculty success in obtaining national research grants. Maclean’s surveys universities with a focus on the undergraduate experience, and an intent to offer an overview of the quality of instruction and services available to students at public universities across the country.
Maclean’s places universities in one of three categories, recognizing the differences in types of institutions, levels of research funding, the diversity of offerings, and the range of graduate and professional programs. Primarily Undergraduate universities are largely focused on undergraduate education, with relatively few graduate programs. Those in the Comprehensive category have a significant amount of research activity and a wide range of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including professional degrees. Medical Doctoral universities offer a broad range of Ph.D. programs and research. In addition, all universities in this category have medical schools, which sets them apart in terms of the size of research grants.
In each category, Maclean’s ranks the institutions on a range of factors—or performance indicators—in six broad areas (weightings are in parentheses). Primarily Undergraduate and Comprehensive universities are ranked on 13 performance measures; Medical Doctoral universities are ranked on 14. Figures include data from all federated and affiliated institutions. The magazine does not rank schools with fewer than 1,000 full-time students or those that are restrictive due to a religious or specialized mission.
The ranking process begins in the spring when thousands of reputational surveys are sent to university officials, high-school principals and guidance counsellors, heads of organizations, CEOs and corporate recruiters across the country, asking for their views on quality and innovation at Canadian universities. During the course of the summer, Maclean’s collects information on dozens of student and faculty awards from 45 administering agencies.
This year, Maclean’s revised its methodology, and the rankings are now based entirely on publicly available data. Student and faculty numbers were obtained from Statistics Canada, as was data for all five financial indicators— operating budget, spending on student services, scholarships and bursaries, library expenses and acquisitions—as well as total research income. For the social sciences and humanities research grants indicator and the medical/science research grants indicator, data for fiscal year 2006-2007 was received directly from the three major federal granting agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Canadian Association of Research Libraries and its regional counterparts provided figures used for the library holdings indicators. All financial and library figures are for the fiscal year 2005-2006; student and faculty numbers are for 2004-2005.