Archive for Mary Dwyer
The methodology of ranking 49 Canadian universities
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 breadth and depth of graduate and professional programs. Primarily Undergraduate universities tend to be smaller in size, and have fewer graduate programs and graduate students.Those in the Comprehensive category have a significant degree 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. pro- grams and research; all universities in this category have medical schools.
In each category, Maclean’s ranks the institutions in six broad areas based on performance indicators, allocating a weight to each indicator. 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, those that are restrictive due to a religious or specialized mission, newly designated universities or those that are not members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).
Maclean’s has spent 20 years gathering the best numerical data to compare the quality of Canadian schools. It isn’t easy. Here’s how we do it.
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 degree 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; as well, 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 performance indicators in six broad areas, allocating a weight to each indicator. 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, those that are restrictive due to a religious or specialized mission, newly designated universities or those that are not members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).
The rankings are based on the most recent and publicly available data. Statistics Canada provides student and faculty numbers, as well as data for total research income and all five financial indicators: operating budget, spending on student services, scholarships and bursaries, library expenses and acquisitions. Financial figures are for fiscal year 2008-2009; student and faculty numbers are for 2008. Data for the social sciences and humanities research grants indicator and the medical/science research grants indicator are for fiscal year 2009-2010 and obtained directly from the three major federal granting agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The Canadian Association of Research Libraries provides figures used for the library holdings indicators; the numbers used for this year’s calculations are for 2008. In addition, Maclean’s collects information on dozens of student and faculty awards from 46 administering agencies, and sends more than 11,000 reputational surveys to university officials at each ranked institution, high school principals and guidance counsellors, CEOs, recruiters and the heads of a wide variety of national and regional organizations.
Maclean’s weights the rankings as follows:
STUDENTS & CLASSES (20 per cent of final score) Maclean’s collects data on the success of the student body at winning national academic awards (weighted 10 per cent) over the previous five years. The list covers 40 fellowship and prize programs, encompassing more than 18,000 individual awards from 2005 through 2009. The count includes such prestigious awards as the Rhodes scholarships and the Fulbright awards, as well as scholarships from professional associations and the three federal granting agencies. Each university’s total of student awards is divided by its number of full-time students, yielding a count of awards relative to each institution’s size.
To gauge students’ access to professors, Maclean’s also measures the number of full-time-equivalent students per full-time faculty member (10 per cent). This student-faculty ratio includes all students, graduate as well as undergraduate.
FACULTY (20 per cent) In assessing the calibre of faculty, Maclean’s calculates the number who have won major national awards over the past five years, including the distinguished Killam, Molson and Steacie prizes, the Royal Society of Canada awards, the 3M Teaching Fellowships and nearly 40 other award programs covering a total of 848 individual awards (eight per cent). To scale for institution size, the award count for each university is divided by each school’s number of full-time faculty.
In addition, the magazine measures the success of faculty in securing research grants from SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR. Maclean’s takes into account both the number and the dollar value received in the previous year, and divides the totals by each institution’s full-time faculty count. Research grants are reported by how many are awarded to the primary investigator on a project. Social sciences and humanities grants (six per cent) and medical/science grants (six per cent) are tallied as separate indicators.
RESOURCES (12 per cent) This section examines the amount of money available for current expenses per weighted full-time-equivalent student (six per cent). Students are weighted according to their level of study—bachelor, master’s or doctorate—and their program of study.
To broaden the scope of the research picture, Maclean’s also measures total research dollars (six per cent). This figure, calculated relative to the size of each institution’s full-time faculty, includes income from sponsored research, such as grants and contracts, federal, provincial and foreign government funding, and funding from non-governmental organizations.
STUDENT SUPPORT (13 per cent) To evaluate the assistance available to students, Maclean’s examines the percentage of the budget spent on student services (6.5 per cent) as well as scholarships and bursaries (6.5 per cent). Expenditures are measured as they are reported to the Canadian Association of University Business Officers.
Education departments to implement goals aimed at creating respectful learning environments
A promising step forward for Aboriginal education is taking place at this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, currently underway at Concordia University in Montreal. On June 1, members of the Association of Canadian Deans of Education (ACDE) signed an Accord on Indigenous Education. The Accord lays out a vision, a set of principles, and an extensive list of goals with the aim to create respectful learning environments, inclusive curricula, and to recognize and promote Indigenous knowledge in education.
The ACDE’s move comes at a time when almost half of Canada’s Aboriginal population is aged 24 or younger and represents the fastest-growing segment of the Aboriginal population. Indigenous organizations and communities have become increasingly involved in educational policy and issues, while major studies and government commissions have called for Aboriginal people to play a greater role in these areas. ACDE, with a 61-institution membership, recognized the role it could play as an association for educators in order to push for improvements in Indigenous education.
The Accord’s many goals include: reclaiming and teaching Indigenous languages, as well as promoting their use in research and scholarly writing; creating procedures in the promotion and tenure process that value work on Indigenous education projects; eliminating cultural biases in student assessment; and improving access, support and retention strategies to increase the number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people enrolling in and completing post-secondary and teacher education.
The signing of this Accord follows several years of work. In 2007, a four-chair committee was struck comprising two deans of education—Laurentian’s John Lundy and Saskatchewan’s Cecilia Reynolds—as well as Aboriginal scholars Jo-ann Archibald of UBC and UVic’s Lorna Williams. Archibald and Williams had just chaired a B.C. deans of education task force on Aboriginal education, and the B.C. deans had accepted their recommendations the previous year. The ACDE committee’s process involved looking at the needs of universities and Aboriginal communities and what each had to offer the other, while the lengthy drafting process included soliciting comments from each group.
As Williams, who is a member of the Lil’wat First Nation of Mount Currie, B.C., observes: “Education was the tool used to destroy our languages, ways of life, cultural traditions, relationships with families and the land. This action by the deans of education is leading the way to education being an institution that can also heal and restore what it attempted to destroy.”
While the Accord will be implemented within faculties and departments of education, the ACDE hopes that it can also serve as a model for the wider university community, within the teaching profession, and in elementary and secondary education. There is optimism that the Accord’s stated goals will result in concrete changes, and soon. Lundy sees the Accord as “a guide for genuine dialogue and social action in education.” Already at the University of Saskatchewan, the Accord has been shared with deans and upper administration, while USask’s College of Nursing consulted the document when designing a new program.
ACDE members had signed a General Accord in 2005, as well as a subsequent Accord on Initial Teacher Education. Both agreements have helped education deans take a leadership role in education across Canada and have influenced the work of education ministries, teacher federations and national organizations.
For her part, Reynolds sees the Accord as both a challenge and a cause for optimism: “As a country we stand at an important historical crossroads with regard to our relations with Aboriginal Peoples. Either we move to improve our policies and practices, or we choose to ignore the vibrancy that Aboriginal knowledge and learning can offer our local and national activities. This Accord offers us new pathways and serves as a beacon of hope.”
Survey results from 44 colleges in Ontario and B.C.
Ontario and B.C. have released the latest round of college surveys revealing what students think about their schools and the quality of education they received. Areas of focus include the usefulness of knowledge and skills obtained, as well as an assessment of the level of college facilities, resources and services. In both provinces the overall level of satisfaction among students was high. The B.C. survey found particularly high scores on the question of satisfaction with the quality of instruction. The Ontario survey also interviewed employers who hired college grads and asked them how well they felt the college had prepared its graduates to meet their needs as employers. Overall, 93 per cent of employers were satisfied with how Ontario colleges had prepared their graduates for the workforce.
Each year in Ontario, 24 colleges survey current students, recent graduates and their employers to collect data in five key areas: graduation rate, employment rate, graduate satisfaction, employer satisfaction and student satisfaction. The 2009 survey reflects the views of more than 122,000 college students, 40,000 graduates and almost 7,000 employers. In British Columbia, the annual B.C. Diploma, Associate Degree, and Certificate Student Outcomes (DACSO) Survey asks former students of 20 B.C. post-secondary institutions to evaluate their education and employment experiences. Last year, nearly 16,000 former students were interviewed after completing all, or a significant portion, of their educational program.
The B.C. survey posed a series of specific questions asking respondents how their program of study helped to develop skills in 10 areas, including the ability to write clearly and concisely, and to analyze and think critically. Another set of 10 questions asked about satisfaction with aspects of the program, including the quality of computers and software, and the availability of instructors outside class. In addition, respondents who had gone on to full-time employment were asked to rate the usefulness of their training in getting and performing their jobs.
In the Ontario survey, the graduation rate indicator tracked students from one-, two- and three-year programs who went on to graduate in 2008-2009. Rates ranged from 73.3 per cent to 56.6 per cent, with a provincial average of 65 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of Ontario college grads that were employed within six months of graduation was down for the second year in a row. The provincial average stood at 84.8 per cent—down from 90.5 per cent two years ago.
It’s the encyclopedia of higher ed — Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities
This year marks the 15th anniversary edition of the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities.Since 1996, the Guide has been providing information, advice and perspective for students as you prepare to make one of the most important decisions of your life: choosing the university that’s right for you.
A lot has changed on the post-secondary scene since that first Guide, but our mandate remains the same. With profiles of 69 universities—19 more than when we started—we report on the remarkable diversity on offer at schools across the country.
The Guide has a new look this year, helping readers focus on key components of each university: the campus, the programs, the extracurricular life and unique features of each school, as well as direct feedback from students themselves. You’ll get a sense of the look and feel of each campus. And while the Guide may not answer all your questions, it will start you thinking about what else you should be asking, and we tell you where you can go to find the answers.
Where will you be most comfortable? At a small liberal arts school in a town where everybody knows everyone? At a sprawling, intense university in one of the largest cities in the country? Or something in between?
Your range of choices—of universities and programs—has been expanding as well. Several university colleges and art colleges are now full-fledged universities. So are Algoma University—previously a Laurentian affiliate, and profiled in last year’s Guide for the first time—and Calgary’s Mount Royal University, which makes its first appearance in this year’s edition. One new option, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), opened in Oshawa, Ont., in 2003. And Canada got a new medical school, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, shared by Lakehead and Laurentian universities, in 2005.
Meanwhile, the original 50 schools profiled in the 1996 Guide have hardly sat still. Wilfrid Laurier University has doubled its student population and opened a second campus in Brantford, Ont. The University of Regina has invested in construction campuswide, more than doubling its physical capacity. Billions of dollars have poured into infrastructure across the country, resulting in campus construction sprees creating new research centres, libraries, labs, classrooms and residences—many built to environmentally friendly LEED standards. Alumni returning to their university hoping to check out old haunts will in many cases find their campus unrecognizable.
University enrolment, for full- and part-time students, has increased by about 29 per cent over the past 15 years, now standing at more than one million. Unfortunately, full-time faculty numbers during the same period have increased by roughly 17 per cent, resulting in growing class sizes at many campuses.
How students are studying has changed as well. Co-op programs and study-abroad options have increased significantly, as have graduate offerings, even at many of the primarily undergraduate universities. There is a growing emphasis on service learning and community involvement in many programs.
Back in 1996, Acadia University was a pioneer in integrating notebook computers into the undergraduate curriculum. Since then, technology has revolutionized the way classrooms function and how students interact with their profs all across the country. New courses have developed that few could have envisioned 15 years ago. If you’re interested in a master’s degree in computer game technology, Algoma offers one. Computer science students at the University of Saskatchewan can now take a course focusing on iPhone programming and apps development.
In 1996, the average tuition for universities profiled in the Guide was $2,400. This year, it stands at $5,200. Not surprisingly, about 60 per cent of undergraduate students graduate with debt, and today the average owed is roughly $25,000. As tuition soared, the Guide has included more information on how to cover the cost of an education, including details on grants and loans, figures comparing residence and rental costs, as well as an ever-expanding scholarship directory.
This year’s Guide has articles giving practical advice on careers, university admissions and dealing with some of the challenges campus life can throw your way. Also included: the 19th annual Maclean’s university rankings. We ranked 48 Canadian universities according to more than a dozen criteria ranging from resources, faculty quality, students and classes, to libraries, student support and reputation. In addition, the Guide has results from two major student surveys, revealing how tens of thousands of students feel about their educational experience.
Pursuing a university degree requires a large investment of time and money. At the same time, recent stats show that full-time workers with an undergraduate degree earn on average $20,000 more annually than those with only high school credentials. So in financial terms alone, a university degree is worth the effort, but it’s important to choose wisely and find the right fit for you. That’s why we offer you this Guide. We hope it sparks your imagination and excites you about all the many post-secondary options that await you.
The Guide is available in printed or electronic form. Want to see more? Click here.
In two major surveys, students get the chance to grade their own universities.
There are many ways by which a university can measure its performance, including asking those on the receiving end of an education—the students—what they think. In recent years, a growing number of universities have been doing exactly that. The following pages contain results from two major student surveys: the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Canadian University Survey Consortium—NSSE and CUSC for short. Between them, these surveys examine how involved students are in various academic and extracurricular activities, how satisfied they are with their university and its faculty, and how connected they feel to their school.
The findings show that while students are generally happy with their university education, there are key areas of discontent. In particular, a significant number of students feel they don’t fit in at their university, more often in the larger schools than the smaller ones.
Commissioned by the universities, the surveys ask more than 150 questions about the undergraduate experience—inside the classroom and beyond. The answers help each university assess the quality of its programs and services, which in turn can aid in the design and implementation of strategies to improve areas as indicated.
Recognizing that this data can also be useful for prospective students trying to decide which university is right for them, Maclean’s has been publishing CUSC and NSSE results each year since 2006. They provide direct feedback from students on the quality of their education and their general level of satisfaction.
The U.S.-based NSSE began in 1999 and is distributed to ﬁrst- and senior-year students. Administered by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, NSSE is not primarily a student satisfaction survey. Rather, it is a study of best educational practices and an assessment of the degree to which each university follows those practices. The survey pinpoints what students are doing while they are in school and on campus.
Research has shown that various forms of engagement are likely to lead to more learning and greater student success. And this link exists not only in the more obvious areas of academic endeavour, such as the number of books read and papers written, but also in curricular extras such as conducting research with a faculty member, community service, internships and studying abroad, as well as in extracurricular involvement with other students.