Top Ten

November 3, 2006

Sweeps Week for Canadian Universities

Just two days since The Globe & Mail dumped 60 glossy pages of its University Report Card on Canadians, the ratings keep on coming as Maclean's released its 16th annual university ranking issue yesterday. (Although it's supposedly on newsstands now until January 31st, most stores are saying watch for it next Monday.) Unlike the Globe report, most of Maclean's content does not appear online, but the Maclean's website includes a "personalized university ranking tool" at www.macleans.ca/universities/. Editor Tony Keller appeared on Canada AM yesterday, defending the data used: "I will say there are some universities that have got their university presidents absolutely more up-to-date information sitting on their desks, but it's not available to any member of the public, including us at the moment." The Maclean's media release provides substantial information regarding its methodology, including its integration of NSSE and CUSC survey results obtained through access to information requests.

Radical Upsets in Maclean's Rankings

After 11 years, uToronto has been bumped from the top of the medical/doctoral rankings by both McGill and Queen's, now ranked number one and two respectively, while UWO fell from third to fifth place. (Last year, McGill tied UofT for first.) Likewise, uGuelph has displaced uWaterloo and uVictoria among comprehensive schools. uAlberta has bumped uWaterloo to become number one "best overall" and "leaders of tomorrow," but uWaterloo remains "most innovative." Only among primarily undergraduate schools were there few surprises, with St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allison and Acadia maintaining their positions in the top three spots. It may be worth noting that 4 of the top 5 comprehensive universities did submit data to Maclean's this year, while 12 of the 15 medical/doctoral universities did not.

A Wide Range of Media Releases

Once again, university communications departments were in high gear cranking out media releases celebrating successes in the Maclean's rankings, challenging its methodology, or reminding the public of better results in other recent surveys. A few that have come to my attention so far: " McGill earns first place among medical-doctoral universities", with the highest entering grade average (88.9%), the most international student body, and the largest number of national student awards. " uGuelph reclaimed the No.1 spot" for the third time in recent days, following top ratings in the Globe Report Card and the Top 50 Research Universities ranking. (uGuelph president Alastair Summerlee is in fact hosting a " celebratory coffee break" this morning for the campus community.) " Mount Allison enjoys high standings in annual Maclean's rankings," while "Students and Graduates Give uWinnipeg Top Marks for Quality of Teaching and Educational Experience," placing it "second in Western Canada" among primarily undergraduate institutions. "Maclean's gives Western fifth spot" following a stellar performance in the Globe Report Card. " uWaterloo has maintained its reputation as the best overall" comprehensive school, and first for "most innovative," and president David Johnston magnanimously congratulated uGuelph on their first-place finish. "Bishop's University remains in top third in Maclean's," and drew attention to the disparity of results for schools between the Globe and Maclean's rankings. uOttawa's release yesterday summarized its 5th place finish in Research Infosource's Top 50 Research Universities ranking, its improved place in the Globe Report Card, and its 11th place in Maclean's -- while noting that "the Macleans rankings, however, are difficult to take seriously, especially since almost half of the universities surveyed have refused to participate in the process and in many instances the data is a year old or not consistent."

University Presidents Well Paid

Maclean's reports that "university heads make more than the Prime Minister." Last year, 18 university presidents earned over $300,000, including uAlberta president Indira Samarasekera, who broke the half-million dollar mark. Media release

Acadia Launches Capital Campaign

Acadia University will launch its $75 million capital campaign, "The Tides are Turning," in Toronto next Wednesday November 8th. This is Acadia's "first significant capital campaign in more than 10 years and one of its most aggressive." Priorities include the west campus redevelopment, the K.C. Irving Environmental Trust, student life, the Learning Commons, academic initiatives and student financial aid. Campaign site

Candid Camera in University Lectures

An increasing number of US professors have expressed concern about their lectures being posted without permission on YouTube, arguing that it violates their intellectual property rights. One professor at the University of Florida has been placed on leave and may be in danger of losing his job for his lecture performance as a "stoned professor." (See InsideHigherEd for a detailed article and links to some examples.) Now this week, RateMyProfessors.com has started posting photographs of faculty posted by students, without permission, no doubt as proof of their "hotness". (A disproportionate number of the 50 hottest profs teach at Canadian colleges and universities.) Some argue that the obvious int ent is to humiliate professors. InsideHigherEd.com

US School Boards Allowed to Create More Same-Sex Classes

The US Education Department has issued final rules giving local school leaders more discretion to create voluntary same-sex classes for subjects such as math, a grade level, or even an entire school. The move is considered the biggest change to coed classrooms in more than three decades. Some US research suggests better student achievement and fewer discipline problems in single-sex classes. Women's organizations claim the move will "breed second-class citizens." In the past 8 years, single-sex classes have increased from only 4 schools to more than 228. CNN article

Laurier Faculty of Education to Debut Fall 2007

Wilfrid Laurier University's campus newspaper The Cord reports that Laurier staff are preparing for the opening of its faculty of education next fall. The school has already received over 400 applications for just 70 places, and expects up to 600 more before the December deadline. Accreditation paperwork will be sent to the Ontario College of Teachers this week, and approval is expect by April. Cord Weekly

New Reports on Canadian Student Financing

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation released two reports this week on PSE student debt. Student Debt: Trends and Consequences reveals that debt levels of college students have been rising, while those of university students have remained stable for several years. (59% of university students graduated with debt, on average $24,047, while 44% of college students graduated more than $10,000 in debt -- up from 32% in 2003. Some may be reporting debt levels incurred at university before starting college.) On the other hand, The Impact of Bursaries: Debt and Persistence in PSE reports that grants and bursaries are helping to stabilize student debt levels. "At a time when the country must increase participation in PSE to remain prosperous and competitive, it will be important to increase the numbers of students completing post-secondary studies without burdeni ng them with unmanageable debt loads." Yesterday's Toronto Star reported "Burden Soaring in College System." CMSF | Toronto Star