CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE TOOL The annual Maclean’s rankings assess Canadian universities on a range of performance indicators in six broad areas. The Maclean’s ranking tool lets you create a customized ranking by selecting whichever indicators matter most to you, and deciding how much weight to give to each indicator to contribute to the [...]
The annual Maclean’s rankings assess Canadian universities on a range of performance indicators in six broad areas. The Maclean’s ranking tool lets you create a customized ranking by selecting whichever indicators matter most to you, and deciding how much weight to give to each indicator to contribute to the final score.
Here is a description of each indicator used in the Maclean’s ranking tool.
Maclean’s calculates the number of students over the past five years who have won national academic awards. The list includes 40 fellowship and prize programs, encompassing more than 18,000 individual awards. Each university’s total of student awards is divided by its number of full-time students, yielding a per student count.
To gauge students’ access to professors, Maclean’s measures the number of full-time-equivalent students per full-time faculty member. This student/faculty ratio includes all students, graduate as well as undergraduate.
Awards per Full-time Faculty
Maclean’s calculates the number of faculty over the past five years who have won major national awards from more than 40 awards programs covering a total of 860 awards. To scale for institution size, the award count for each university is divided by each school’s number of full-time faculty.
Social Sciences and Humanities Grants
Maclean’s measures the success of faculty in securing research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), taking into account both the number and the dollar value received in the previous year, and dividing the totals by each institution’s full-time faculty count.
Maclean’s measures the success of faculty in securing research grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), taking into account both the number and the dollar value received in the previous year, and dividing the totals by each institution’s full-time faculty count.
Total Research Dollars
Maclean’s measures total research dollars, including income from sponsored research, such as grants and contracts, federal, provincial and foreign government funding, and funding from non-governmental organizations. This figure is calculated relative to the size of each institution’s full-time faculty.
This section examines the amount of money available for current expenses per weighted full-time-equivalent student. Students are weighted according to their level of study—bachelor, master’s or doctorate—and their program of study.
Scholarships & Bursaries
This indicator calculates the percentage of a university’s operating budget spent on scholarships and bursaries.
This indicator calculates the percentage of a university’s operating budget spent on student services.
This indicator calculates the percentage of a university’s operating budget allocated to library services.
This indicator calculates the percentage of the library budget spent on updating the collection. In acknowledging a shift from the traditional library model—books on shelves—to an electronic access model, this measure includes spending on electronic resources.
Holdings per Students
This indicator calculates the number of volumes and volume equivalents per number of full-time-equivalent students.
Maclean’s solicits the views of university ofﬁcials at each ranked institution, high school guidance counsellors from every province and territory, the heads of a wide variety of national and regional organizations, and CEOs and recruiters at corporations large and small. Respondents rated the universities on quality and innovation.
The Maclean’s ranking tool lets you mix and match data from the most recent edition of the Maclean’s University Rankings to build your own, customized university ranking.
Maclean’s ranks Canadian universities on a range of performance indicators in six broad areas, assigning a weight to each indicator that determines how much it contributes to the final score. The ranking tool lets you select whichever indicators matter most to you and lets you decide how much weight you want to give to each indicator.
For example, Maclean’s weights the Student/Faculty Ratio indicator at 10%. That means each university’s performance on this indicator contributes 10% to their final score. If you place a high value on access to your professors, you can weight this indicator at a higher percentage. You can customize a ranking based on this indicator and just two or three others but give 50% of the weight to Student/Faculty Ratio. Or you could choose this indicator along with up to six others, but still give Student/Faculty Ratio the heaviest weight. You decide.
How it works:
Select the performance indicators that most interest you. You can select up to seven at a time.
Then click NEXT.
Assign a weight to each of the indicators that you have chosen based on how much you want each to contribute to the final score. The total must add up to 100 per cent.
Then click NEXT.
Select the universities you wish to compare. You can choose all universities, or select by region, such as universities in the West, Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic region. Or you can create your own list of up to 49 individual institutions.
Then click NEXT.
Our ranking tool will perform the calculations using the indicators, weights and schools that you have chosen. Voila! Your own personalized ranking of Canadian universities.
Note: Ranking for the Personalized University Ranking Tool is not calculated in the same way as the annual Maclean’s university rankings. Though the two use common data, the rankings use a statistical percentile method and are three separate rankings, one for each of the three categories of universities: Primarily Undergraduate, Comprehensive and Medical-Doctoral. As such, results obtained from this online tool may not agree with the Maclean’s annual rankings, even if the same set of weights are applied to the indicators.
Our 132-page guide to Canada’s top schools is out now
The 22nd annual Maclean’s University Rankings issue—the holy book for anyone planning their education in Canada—is now available on newsstands and tablets.
The 2013 issue, our biggest-ever, features 132 pages of charts, stories and advice designed to help future students choose the right school, while sparking conversations on the quality of the post-secondary experience from the size of classes to the cost of textbooks.
The issue also offers a peek inside campus life from coast to coast, including an examination of the viral videos phenomenon, a deeper look at the scourge of drinking, Emma Teitel on fraternities, the college advantage and pages more. There are online extras, too, like photo tours of life at 24 campuses.
And, of course, the issue features the 22nd annual rankings.
Medical Doctoral universities offer a broad range of Ph.D. programs and have medical schools
For the other two categories, click here.
|2013 Ranking||University||Last Year|
* Indicates a tie
Primarily Undergraduate universities are largely focused on undergraduate education with fewer graduate programs
For the other categories, click here.
|2013 Ranking||School||Last Year|
|7||St. Francis Xavier||(6)|
|17||Mount Saint Vincent||(17)|
* Indicates a tie
Comprehensive universities have a signiﬁcant degree of research activity and a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs, including professional degrees
For the other two rankings, click here.
|2013 Ranking||School||Last Year|
* Indicates a tie
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).
Did your school made the cut?
The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) by Shanghai Jiao Tong University is one of the most objective. It doesn’t rely on reputation surveys. Instead, it looks at things like Nobel Prizes, highly cited researchers and the number of papers published in prestigious journals.
This year, they looked at more than 1,200 universities and ranked the Top 500. The U.S. and U.K. dominate (as always) with 23 of the top 25. Japan and Switzerland each had one.
See how Canadian schools measure up
There’s nothing quite like it. QS Intelligence Unit, a British firm, has released its first-ever world university rankings by subject. They offer the top 200 schools for an incredible 29 disciplines based on academic and employer reputation surveys and academic citations per faculty member.
The top five schools in each ranking are almost entirely British and American. Only two Canadian schools cracked the top 10: the University of Toronto for Environmental Sciences, Modern Languages and English and the University of British Columbia for English and Geography.*
But our schools didn’t flounder by any means. In fact, we have some exceptionally well-rounded institutions. Just look at the University of Alberta and McGill University, which ranked in all 29 categories.
Subject rankings for psychology, law, economics…
Here are the top five highest ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject and the rankings of all Canadian schools for arts, humanities, and business. For science, engineering, and health disciplines click here. For the full rankings, visit TopUniversities.com.
1. Harvard University (United States)
2. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) (United States)
3. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
4. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) (United Kingdom)
5. University of Chicago (United States)
16. University of Toronto
33. McGill University
40. University of British Columbia
45. Queen’s University
51-100. Université de Montréal, University of Alberta
101-150. McMaster University, Western University, Université du Québec, University of Waterloo, York University
151-200. Carleton University, Concordia University, Dalhousie University, Laval University, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, University of Victoria
Subject rankings for science, medicine, engineering…
Here are the top five highest ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject and the rankings of Canadian schools in science, engineering, and health disciplines. For arts, humanities and business, click here. For the full rankings, visit TopUniversities.com.
1. Harvard University (United States)
2. University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
3. National University of Singapore (NUS) (Singapore)
4. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
5. Karolinska Institute (Sweden)
11. University of Toronto
25. University of Alberta
26. University of British Columbia
29. McGill University
51-100. Western University, Université de Montréal
101-150. University of Waterloo
151-200. Dalhousie University, Laval University, University of Saskatchewan
UBC and McGill also score well in global survey
The University of Toronto is the best post-secondary institution in the country, according to a new global ranking of universities by subject. As the Montreal Gazette reports, the QS World University Rankings compared universities across 29 disciplines, and is the largest such survey ever completed.
From the Gazette:
U of T ranked No. 1 nationally in 21 of the 29 disciplines, ahead of UBC with six and McGill with two.
Though McGill failed to match the top-10 rankings of Toronto and UBC, it still made the global top 20 in an impressive eight disciplines.
“These rankings provide great news for Canada, pointing to world-class departments in a range of discipline areas,” said Ben Sowter, head of research at QS. “While the U.S. still dominates at an overall institutional level, within narrower subject areas the picture is far more diverse.”
Other Canadian schools to show up on the list were the University of Alberta, McMaster, Université de Québec, the University of Waterloo and Western University. Harvard and MIT scored best overall, placing first in 11 of the 29 disciplines in the survey.
Is your science faculty on the list?
QS World, a private company, has released new rankings of the top 150 science schools worldwide, broken down into six categories.
Here are the Canadian schools that made it into the Top 100.
#14 University of British Columbia
#20 University of Toronto
#37 McGill University
#51-100 Dalhousie University
#51-100 Queen’s University
#51-100 University of Calgary
#51-100 University of Waterloo
#11 University of British Columbia
#20 University of Toronto
#21 McGill University
#51-100 University of Waterloo
#18 University of Toronto
#19 University of British Columbia
#28 McGill University
#51-100 University of Alberta
#18 University of British Columbia
#24 University of Toronto
#35 McGill University
#51-100 Carleton University
#27 University of Toronto
#34 University of British Columbia
#43 McGill University
#51-100 McMaster University
#16 University of Toronto
#25 McGill University
#44 University of British Columbia
#51-100 University of Alberta,
#51-100 University of Waterloo
Students tell what they really think about their university, from the quality of their profs to whether they feel they get the runaround
Here you will ﬁnd additional results from the Canadian University Survey Consortium (CUSC). The CUSC survey, which was commissioned by the universities, asks more than 100 questions about specific aspects of the undergraduate experience—inside the classroom and beyond—designed to provide universities with data to help them assess programs and services.
Each year, the survey targets one of three student populations: first-year students, graduating students and all undergrads. In 2010, 39 campuses took part, administering an online questionnaire to a random sample of approximately 1,000 first-year students at each university. Institutions with fewer than 1,000 first-year students surveyed them all. In total, more than 12,500 students took part with an overall response rate of 39 per cent.
Learning at these three schools happens outside the lecture hall
Like Rodney Dangerfield and rolling in the mud, Concordia University has a tendency to be underappreciated. Long considered the red-headed stepchild of Montreal’s two English universities, it is often lost in the ivy-tinged shadow of McGill. Many wear their alma mater’s scruffier-than-thou reputation on their sleeve. “Concordia is to McGill what the United Church is to Catholicism,” says one-time contemporary dance major Amy Blackmore. Still, the university has consistently found itself on the wrong end of Maclean’s rankings.
But while the numbers may show the 30,000-student university has certain challenges, they obscure many of the innovative aspects of a Concordia education that attract people like Amy Blackmore. Case in point: the faculty of fine arts, based in the glass-and-steel confines of the university’s new Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex. By design, the roughly 3,700 fine arts students live and work in one of Montreal’s busiest strips—from which students and faculty alike draw inspiration. “There’s no sense of there being an ivory tower here,” says Chris Salter, a computer design professor. “There are no closed-off spaces. There’s more of what I’d call seepage.”
“Seepage” is an odd yet apt description of the department’s philosophy. Students who choose ﬁne arts won’t simply learn their chosen craft; more often than not, they’ll learn how to put it to use once they graduate. The department of design and computation arts doesn’t simply teach the esoteric aspects of the craft, but the practical as well. “In any given week I’ll be teaching the academic, such as media theory, to the hard-core technical, like digital audio design,” says Salter. The department offers a double major in computer science and computation arts, the only one of its kind in North America.
If there is a technological pièce de résistance in the department, it’s the Hexagram Institute. Established in 2001, it is the conglomeration of 16 so-called “new media labs” devoted solely to what the university calls “new processes, creative communities and innovative works or prototypes.” Translation: students get to dream up and make really, really cool stuff.
D. Andrew Stewart, a Concordia graduate, is using Matralab (one of the Hexagram’s spaces) to hone the T-Stick, a length of plumbing tube stuffed with electronics and layered with a touch-sensitive surface. The tube reacts to movement and touch, and when hooked up to a computer it can be manipulated to make custom sounds (a flute, maybe, or a sample of Stewart yelling something quasi-obscene). “It’s all open source,” Stewart says, “meaning you could build one yourself with instructions from the Internet. The gyroscope in it is from a Nintendo Wii controller.”
Matralab director Sandeep Bhagwati, who is also one of nine Canada Research Chairs in fine arts, says Stewart’s T-Stick is typical of the department’s beyond-the-box, interdisciplinary approach to art and performance. Indeed, it’s what attracted him to Concordia. “I have a very structured background as an orchestra director and composition professor,” Bhagwati says. “I really don’t like the divides. I needed input from people who were not musicians.”
Music therapy is another example of the department’s mix of theory and practicality. Music majors typically had three choices once they graduate: teaching, performing or gut-wrenching unemployment. You might say that Concordia’s music therapy program is a welcome fourth option. One of only two master’s-level programs in the country, music therapy students spend three days a week during the 12-month period (a total of 1,200 hours) working at various prenatal, health and palliative care centres, as well as women’s shelters and special education facilities around Montreal.
For professor P. K. Langshaw, interaction with the community at large goes both ways. In 2001, Langshaw began an ad hoc outreach program between her students and those of Dans La Rue, a resource centre for street kids featuring an alternative school. The reason: Langshaw, whose many specialties include computer art design, wanted to demystify the subject for DLR students. Her instinct has legs: today, DLR students can take classes at Concordia, earning the equivalent of six credits for producing university-level works. “For a lot of DLR kids, digital self-expression isn’t something that’s necessarily in their realm,” Langshaw says. “But here they are treated the same as any Concordia student.” It’s a ﬁtting partnership: Concordia itself is dans la rue—and proud to be far away from the ivory towers of certain other universities.
- Martin Patriquin
Two decades after his controversial university study, not much has changed in how students are educated
Canadian universities look strikingly different than they did just 20 years ago. For one thing, there are more students populating the hallways and dorm rooms of virtually every institution: since 1995, full-time enrolment has grown by 57 per cent, according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). More than half of today’s faculty members were hired within the last 15 years. Technology has enabled new teaching methods and models. And provincial funding for operating budgets has more than doubled since 1995, the AUCC says, while government research funding has increased almost fourfold. With all this fresh blood, new tools and money, you’d think higher education would have changed a lot. But in some ways, argues Dr. Stuart Smith, a long-time observer of the system who was featured in the first-ever Maclean’s ranking issue almost 20 years ago, things look remarkably the same as they did back then.
A medical doctor and psychiatrist by training, Smith has been a politician, a student, a professor and administrator (he now serves on the board of governors at Humber College). In 1991, he penned a controversial report for the AUCC on the state of Canadian universities—and didn’t spare them from criticism. Here, Smith revisits some of his points, and takes a look at how they stack up today.
TEACHING VS. RESEARCH
“One of the crucial questions is whether universities give their students enough practical education to match all the theories they learn,” Smith told Maclean’s 20 years ago. Today, “I think that remains a question,” says Smith, now 72. One of his most talked-about points in 1991 was that universities weren’t doing a good enough job of actually teaching their students, focusing on more prestigious research instead. “Teaching is seriously undervalued at Canadian universities and nothing less than a total recommitment to it is required,” he wrote then. Today, “it hasn’t changed very much,” he says. To get ahead, academics still prioritize research; “those interested in teaching do so at the peril of their career.”
Concordia University finance professor Arshad Ahmad, president of the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, agrees. Research remains closely tied to “rewards, promotions, and how you get tenure,” he says. And in a Ph.D. program, “you’re taking one course on teaching.”
“The pendulum went too far in the direction of research, at the expense of teaching,” adds Alastair Summerlee, president of the University of Guelph. “We’re in the process of rebalancing that.”
Summerlee and Ahmad agree that universities have three critical roles: teaching, research, and community service. At Guelph, professors don’t just get ahead based on their list of publications. For the past 15 years or so, they can be promoted based on teaching, research, service (anything from working in the community to serving on a government committee), or a combination. (Professors report on their activities in a dossier.) At McGill University, all tenure-track faculty are required to teach, meaning they can’t hide from students in their labs. Guelph and other universities now have teaching support units or centres for learning and teaching services, which provide teachers with new ideas, workshops and demonstrations.
And teaching itself is increasingly looked at as part of traditional scholarship, Ahmad says. There are now literally hundreds of journals devoted to the topic, and an increasing number of awards for good teachers. The 3M National Teaching Fellowships have been around for 25 years now, and have grown immensely in prestige over that time. “I got [the 3M award] in 1992, and almost nobody had heard of it,” Ahmad says. “Today, it’s a different beast. We have lots of applications, and the teachers are celebrated.” (Summerlee is also a 3M recipient.)
Beyond a publish-or-perish mentality, professors are struggling with a “huge increase in students,” Ahmad says. Smith has noticed it, too: classes are increasingly taught by graduate students or teaching assistants, he says. “They’re putting a TA in front of larger and larger classes.”
At the University of Toronto, “growth has been extraordinary,” says president David Naylor. “We had about 42,000 full-time equivalent students in 1991. Now, we have over 75,000” across three campuses, and class size can reach over 1,000. Still, there are ways to cope. Professors have to increasingly rely on new technologies—a good sound system, big screens—to reach their students. Naylor says that, done correctly, it can work. “We see that some of the big classes here get very strong evaluations when they have the right teacher, the right technology and the right teaching assistants,” he says.
If U of T students will take some huge classes, they should take some smaller ones too, the thinking goes. At the downtown campus, roughly 40 per cent of students starting in the arts and sciences faculty will take a seminar with 28 students or less. Smaller, primarily undergraduate schools continue to tout the small classes they can offer: at Cape Breton University, says president John Harker, “we might have a class of 12 to 20 students. We think that’s valuable.”
We find the trend toward race-based admissions policies in some U.S. schools to be deplorable
Maclean’s annual University Rankings issue is our most popular and most discussed magazine of the year. The 2010 edition, released two weeks ago, was no exception. Alongside our comprehensive rankings of Canadian schools, we also tackled the biggest issues facing today’s university students. There were stories dealing with school stress, problem roommates, difficult school choices and sex. And when students told us race is becoming a conversation on Canadian campuses, we took a closer look at that as well.
Our reporters Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Köhler spoke to university students, professors and administrators about campus racial balance and its implications. The resulting story was titled: ‘Too Asian?’: a term used in the U.S. to talk about racial imbalance at Ivy League schools is now being whispered on Canadian campuses—by everyone but the students themselves, who speak out loud and clear.”
The article has generated a great deal of response, a representative sample of which is included in this week’s Letters (page six). Some of the comments we have seen on the Internet and in other media have suggested that by publishing this article, Maclean’s views Canadian universities as “Too Asian,” or that we hold a negative view of Asian students.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As our story relates, the phrase “Too Asian?” is a direct quote from the title of a panel discussion at the 2006 meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling where experts examined the growing tendency among U.S. university admission officers to view Asian applicants as a homogenous group. The evidence suggests some of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. have abandoned merit as the basis for admission for more racially significant—and racist—criteria.
We find the trend toward race-based admission policies in some American schools deplorable, as do many of our readers. Our article notes that Canadian universities select students regardless of race or creed. That, in our view, is the best and only acceptable approach: merit should be the sole criteria for entrance to higher education in Canada, and universities should always give preference to our best and brightest regardless of cultural background. This position was stated clearly in the article: “Canadian institutions operate as pure meritocracies when it comes to admissions, and admirably so,” reporters Findlay and Köhler wrote.
Through hard work, talent and ambition, Asian students have been highly successful in earning places in Canada’s institutions of higher learning. They, like all of our high achievers, deserve respect and admiration. Every one of them is a source of pride to their fellow Canadians.
One final note about the headline. Although the phrase “Too Asian?” was a question and, again, a quotation from an authoritative source, it upset many people. We expected that it would be provocative, but we did not intend to cause offence.
From the editors
More women than ever have university degrees, but men still dominate university leadership
When Elizabeth Cannon showed up for her first day of engineering school in 1979, women made up five per cent of the program. Now, as she takes the reins of the University of Calgary, women make up 23 per cent of the school’s future engineers and more than half of the university’s student population, a trend reflected in schools across Canada.
But as Canadians fret over the feminization of lecture halls and ponder affirmative action for males, they seem to have missed the fact that the number of women sitting in the president’s chairs remains stubbornly low. In the fall of 2000, 12 of the 68 leaders of Canadian universities—18 per cent—were female. A decade later, just 13 of 70—19 per cent—are women. The U.S. saw a similar rise and plateau: in 1986, women made up nine per cent of university and college heads; the number grew to 19 per cent in 1998 before growth stalled again, settling at just 23 per cent today. Female professors are being hired in almost equal numbers to men—45 per cent of new full-time teaching positions were awarded to women in 2008—but the upper ranks are still overwhelmingly male. Just 22 per cent of full-time professors are women, although they make up a majority of education departments and nearly half of arts teachers.
Related: Knocking on the glass ceiling
We asked some female university leaders why the growth in female leadership has slowed to almost nothing—and what can be done to fix it. “The fact that we’re getting more women in the academic ranks will increase the number of women at the top,” says Cannon. “But we can’t rely on demographics alone.”
Martha Piper, who oversaw UBC from 1997 to 2006, was surprised to learn that more women aren’t leading our universities: “Wow. My impression was that more women were being appointed than that,” she says. Piper says if women are going to win the top spots, administrations have to actively encourage them. That means identifying women inside the university during succession planning, encouraging them, and hiring from that pool. “Every time there’s a new president, there are these national search teams,” she explains, “I sit on a couple of corporate boards and they make it their job to figure out who the leaders are and how to develop them. Universities need to start cultivating from within.”
Ramona Lumpkin, who started her term as president of Mount Saint Vincent University this fall, encountered one roadblock in her 33-year career that she suspects is holding other women back. It took her awhile to realize that her less assertive and more collaborative leadership style was equal (if different) to the leadership style of her male colleagues. “Not everyone speaks in the bass range,” she says, referring to her soft voice that can get lost in a room full of men. Lumpkin says it will take some recognition on the part of administrations that women often lead differently, in order for them to feel comfortable leading male-heavy groups.
Piper says being a mother kept her from moving up sooner. She was encouraged to apply for a vice-president’s position at the University of Alberta around 1990, but she decided to focus on parenting instead, and wonders how many women give up on advancement entirely, due to family pressures. “Probably 80-plus per cent of women decide somewhere mid-career whether they want to throw their hat in the ring to be a head, a dean, or whatever,” says Piper. “You have to ask what they need at that stage of life.”
Sandra Acker, a sociologist with the University of Toronto (who was an associate dean once herself) studies how women succeed and fail in academic administration. In her recent paper, “Gendered games in academic leadership,” Acker profiled four female academic administrators chosen from 31 interviewees. While she notes that not every academic is a mother, she wrote, “the most striking similarity is the way that all four women talked about family and relationship issues affecting their choices.” Indeed, one of the women she studied said it was impossible to live up to the expectations of being both a manager and a mother when her boss was working 85-hour weeks. “I work a lot, but didn’t want to be there on a Friday night at nine o’clock. I have a family,” she told Acker. The man’s family was in another city, allowing him to work late nights and weekends.
Piper believes that universities should recognize that mothers are often the ones driving kids to music lessons and helping with their homework. “We look so much at maternity leave, which is important, but early teenagehood is just as demanding and we don’t have good supports at that period of time,” she explains. Some female academics may need after-school programs for their children, especially considering that highly mobile academics rarely have extended family members living nearby who can babysit, she says.
As Elizabeth Cannon decides how to shape her school’s future, she’s already thought about how to nurture women along the way. “We’ve tried on campus to increase access to quality daycare, to give [mom] academics peace of mind. Being supportive of women who have returned from maternity leave matters too,” says Cannon. “But really, it’s not just tangible things you can do,” she says. “It’s also the culture that you build.”
Photo: Elizabeth Cannon runs the University of Calgary; Ramona Lumpkin (right) runs Mount Saint Vincent
Carleton University has found a new way to keep students from flunking out
At the end of her first year at Carleton University, Stephanie Hamway was struggling with poor grades and a program she didn’t like. “I rushed into university before I fully realized what I wanted to do,” she says. But after spring finals, she got an email from the school’s Student Academic Success Centre, offering to help her create a plan to fix it. Today, in her third year, she has an A average.
Identifying at-risk students and getting them the help they need to stay on track is an obstacle all universities encounter, though some more than others. Retention rates, measured as the number of students who go on from first year to second year, range from a low of 70.3 per cent at Brandon University to a high of 95 per cent at Queen’s University.
Some universities, like Carleton, have realized that students won’t ask for help until it’s too late. That’s why, after mid-terms and finals, the academic success centre reviews grades from the registrar and contacts struggling students directly. They aren’t always easy to convince. “Identifying them is one thing,” says Suzanne Blanchard, associate vice-president of students and enrolment. “Getting them in for help, we’re working on.”
Blanchard estimates that only 30 to 40 per cent of students accept help. To try to reach the school’s goal of helping three-quarters of struggling students, Carleton added a walk-in program in September for students staring down an impending exam. Hamway didn’t need convincing after she was contacted. Her adviser laid out the options: continue, drop out, take a year off, transfer to a college or change majors. She opted to switch majors. “I love the program I’m in now, which has given me a lot of motivation,” she says.
Research on what improves retention is sparse, but a recent study by Ross Finnie, a University of Ottawa economist, determined that the conventional wisdom may be wrong. Traditional thinking has been that at-risk students come from particular demographics, like francophones in Ontario, or visible minorities. Finnie found little correlation between coming from a group that is underrepresented at university and making it beyond first year. He concluded that universities should focus instead on individual students with low marks.
Hamway is glad that Carleton is doing just that. It helped her realize something important: “There’s a lot of support for people who may not have the grades—they shouldn’t just give up.”
And on their curriculums, as universities Glee-fully cater to song-and-dance wannabes
Thank the Gleeks. First, the fans of the hit TV show Glee made singing and dancing programs cool in high schools everywhere. Now, just as the high-schoolers on Glee will wind up going to the same college, Glee-mania is migrating to real-life universities.
According to Jazz Times magazine, American universities have “noted a sharp rise in student interest and enrolment” in choral and music programs, and some have created new groups to meet the Glee-fuelled demand. Ditto in Canada. Earlier this year, after two students at Carleton University started the school’s first glee club, one of the founders, Emile Scheffel, told the school paper the Charlatan that, “I got, like, 47 comments from people wanting to join in the first two hours.” It could be only a matter of time before Glee mania becomes as ubiquitous in school as it is on TV.
Students and teachers alike say that they’re noticing a Glee-inspired impact on the popularity of that type of performance. James Medeiros, a graduate student in music literature and performance at the University of Western Ontario, says that the show is changing the old perception of musical theatre as “old-fashioned, too over-the-top and generally uncool,” and “making it far more popular” among the younger generation.
“Shows like Glee have made the style accessible.” Mark Sussman, assistant professor at Concordia University, adds that “it has an impact on students’ perception of the culture of the theatre department.”
The show’s power is even felt at universities that never associated themselves with show tunes. Cynthia Ashperger, director of the acting program at Ryerson University, was told by one of the music instructors that more and more students “seem to be singing and dancing. Our focus isn’t on musical theatre, but still he’s getting a lot of students in the music department who can sing and dance really well, and he attributes it to the TV show.” James Crooks, director of the singing program at Bishop’s University in Quebec, notes that the university choir, once dominated by women, “last year had approximately 140 people and of those, about 55 or 60 were guys. So something is going on.”
Glee is just the latest in a string of shows that make performing seem like a viable career choice. Charlene Kulbaba, at the University of Winnipeg’s School of Contemporary Dancers, says there’s been a dramatic rise in enrolment, and that when they ask students why they signed up, “nearly all of them have said it is because of the show So You Think You Can Dance.”
But there’s something special about Glee, because it makes students want to do every possible kind of performance. In the drama department, Ashperger explains, instead of specialization, “the acting students are singing. Dancing not as much, but some of them are.”
This interest in multidisciplinary performing isn’t good news for every theatre department. Gwen Dobie, who teaches theatre at York University, noticed that at their first-year orientation, “quite a few of our students asked me if we have a musical theatre program,” and the problem is that “it isn’t in fact what we specialize in.”
But Glee is helping to paint a picture that’s truer to the demands of modern theatre. For one thing, the show is about people who have to be strong in all aspects of performance, and this may be pretty much the way things are today: “No longer can you just be one thing—singer, dancer or actor,” says George Randolph of Randolph Academy in Toronto. “You’ve got to be excellent in one area and have potential in the other two.”
“Our job is to help kids get into the professional theatre and get them jobs,” adds Kayla Gordon, who has taught acting and musical theatre at the University of Winnipeg, and so it’s helpful that TV is opening up new interests for students “who wouldn’t normally have taken a singing class.”
Glee, then, could be part of a growing trend toward combining theatre disciplines into one. Of course, students may be surprised when they discover, as Medeiros says, that you can’t “be handed the sheet music to a song and perfectly sight-read it while executing flawless and unrehearsed choreography.” But that may just be the first thing drama departments will have to teach the new recruits.