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For some students, four years of undergrad is too much
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Richard Warnica.
Shawn Alavi, who graduated from McMaster University in 2006, was 21 when he landed his first engineering job. Today, at 26, he’s a certified engineer—a P.Eng. in the jargon—with years of professional experience, money in the bank and a settled career. “Getting out of school earlier meant I was able to clear my debts earlier,” he says. “Now I’m just saving for my future, deciding on my next step.”
In engineering, Alavi found a profession that allowed him to enter the workforce after just four years of school and to achieve his professional certification through paid experience. “I’ve been working for almost five years now,” he says. “I’ve been able to get my life on track a little quicker than most.”
The annual Maclean’s rankings assess Canadian universities on a range of factors—or performance indicators—in six broad areas
The annual Maclean’s rankings assess Canadian universities on a range of performance indicators in six broad areas
The following describes the indicators used in the Maclean’s ranking tool.
STUDENTS/CLASSES Maclean’s collects data on the success of the student body at winning national academic awards over the previous ﬁve years. The list covers 40 fellowship and prize programs, nearly 19,000 individual awards from 2006 through 2010. 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. This student/faculty ratio includes all students, graduate as well as undergraduate.
FACULTY In assessing the calibre of faculty, Maclean’s calculates the number who have over the past ﬁve years won major national awards, 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 881 individual awards. 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 and medical/science grants are tallied as separate indicators.
RESOURCES 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.
To broaden the scope of the research picture, Maclean’s also measures total research dollars. 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 To evaluate the assistance available to students, Maclean’s examines the percentage of the budget spent on student services as well as scholarships and bursaries.
LIBRARY This section assesses the breadth and currency of the collection. Universities receive points for the number of volumes and volume equivalents per number of full-time-equivalent students.
As well, Maclean’s measures the percentage of a university’s operating budget allocated to library services and 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, Maclean’s captures spending on electronic resources in both the library expenses and acquisitions measurements.
REPUTATION This section reﬂects a university’s reputation in the community at large. For the reputational survey, Maclean’s solicits the views of university ofﬁcials at each ranked institution, high school principals and 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 in three categories: Highest Quality, Most Innovative, and Leaders of Tomorrow. Best Overall represents the sum of the scores.