U of W slips to 10th in Canada in Maclean’s survey

Annual university ranking survey not useful, U of M says

Ayame Ulrich

On the 20th anniversary of Maclean’s magazine’s university ranking survey, the University of Winnipeg was named the 10th best primarily undergraduate university in the country, slipping two spots from last year.

“We ranked 10th ... but in terms of looking at the numbers, there hasn’t been a significant change (at the U of W),” said Dan Hurley, senior executive officer and advisor to the president of the U of W.

“One university jumped three spots which pushes us down, but there wasn’t a lot of movement for a lot of universities.”

The annual Maclean’s survey is often used by high school students considering their options for universities, according to the magazine.

“The Maclean’s university rankings provide a general overview of a university; it is one tool that prospective students can use as they decide which school is right for them,” said Mary Dwyer, senior editor for university rankings at Maclean’s.

Some universities, like the University of Manitoba, denounce the survey, citing its ranking methodology as unfair.

“We don’t think that ranking the universities in the ways Maclean’s does, or any ranking really, provides useful information for high school students deciding which university to attend,” said John Danakas, director of public affairs for the U of M.

“There are a lot of other factors that students might want to take into consideration.”

To rank the schools, the magazine collects 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 taken into account, as well as surveys sent to officials at the universities, high school principals, guidance counsellors, CEOs, recruiters and the heads of many national and regional organizations.

The U of M has consistently ranked at the bottom of the medical doctoral universities in Canada, and there is a common misconception that Manitoba’s largest university doesn’t willingly participate in the survey.

“The U of M does participate,” said Danakas. “There have been two periods in the past where the university didn’t participate. We provide the data Maclean’s requests.”

While they do submit the needed information to the magazine, U of M doesn’t believe polls of any kind are of value to future post-secondary students picking an institution.

“We don’t think (surveys) are helpful to students,” said Danakas. “Students can do their own research and talk to people with experience to make informed decisions.”

Both Danakas and Hurley see issues with competing against schools in larger provinces, and they believe the long-term Manitoba tuition freeze that ended in the fall of 2009 has impacted their ability to provide services.

“In jurisdictions where tuition fees are higher, there probably is some correlation between the rankings,” Hurley said.

The U of W is happy with their ranking, but believes there are other things to look at when grading a school.

“(The survey) is one factor amongst many in deciding where to go to school,” Hurley said. “My advice to students is to try to get as much information as possible ... Ultimately it’s going to come down to location and cost – it is an important measure, but shouldn’t be your only measure when looking for a university.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 25, 2010)

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