The annual Maclean’s University Rankings for 2015 are out, with few surprises. McGill, Simon Fraser and Mount Allison lead in their respective categories, as they have done for much of the recent past; the same goes for Waterloo in the reputation survey.
In the Medical Doctoral category – institutions which have a medical school and a broad range of research and Ph.D. programs – McGill retains its first-place position for the 10th year in a row. The University of Toronto moves up one place to second, above UBC, which was No. 2 last year, while Laval University moves up three positions to tie with Université de Montréal for 10th.
In the Comprehensive category, which consists of professional schools as well as schools with significant research, undergraduate and graduate programs, Simon Fraser regains the top spot over the University of Victoria, while Ryerson University moves up two positions to tie with York for eighth place, reflecting growth in the number of grad programs and grad students.
In the Primarily Undergraduate category, Mount Allison in tiny Sackville, N.B., stays top, a spot it has held since 2007. The University of Northern British Columbia moves to second place from third, while Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., climbs four spots to 10th place, tied with UPEI. Another northern Ontario school, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, moves up two spots to eighth.
Waterloo tops the reputational survey, as it has done for almost 2 decades. The reputation survey accounts for one-fifth of the total score, and is filled out by education and business leaders. Although the reputation survey is subjective, and gets criticised for it, high school students claim it is invaluable when it comes to choosing a university.
Ryerson has done well on the reputational ranking, moving up four spots to eighth. “Rankings have a hell of a difficulty in measuring certain elements that are very hard to quantify,” says Ryerson president Sheldon Levy. Newer elements that have become important parts of a university’s identity, such as innovation, are difficult to define, let alone measure. He recommends prospective students connect with alumni at the schools they’re interested in to get a better sense of how the school’s reputation will affect their career path.
It’s also important to keep in mind that a reputation isn’t made overnight. “It’s made over decades, and even centuries in some cases.” says Concordia president Alan Shepard. “Students have many good and interesting choices in Canada,” he adds.
And while Mount Allison has the best reputation of the schools in its category, President Robert Campbell says students shouldn’t choose a school on that basis alone. “When students come to visit, I always tell them: ‘Don’t come to Mount Allison because it’s No. 1 in Maclean’s, come here because it’s appropriate,’ ” he said. “You may not want to be in Atlantic Canada, in a small town … really think about what school will fit your personality.”