U of C places 10th in Maclean’s rankings

By Mary Chan

At least we made the top 10.

The University of Calgary placed 10th in a field of 15 in Maclean’s magazine’s Ninth Annual Universities Rankings issue, which came out Mon., Nov. 8. Though the university finished two places higher in the category than last year, U of C officials feel the institution did not get enough credit for its strengths.

“Maclean’s doesn’t recognize the kinds of things that we think are important,” said U of C Associate Vice-president Academic Dr. Jim Frideres. “It’s a different value system.”

Among these values is accessibility to post-secondary education. According to Frideres, the U of C has a lower average entering grade (for which it is penalized) because it accepts students with lower averages.

“We’ll let you in here with a 75,” he said. “But if you don’t perform when you’re here, then we will ask you do leave–but we’ll give you that chance.”

The overall rankings are compiled from weighted placements in categories such as proportion of students who graduate, government research grants and reputation.

According to Maclean’s, the rankings assess the education Canadian undergraduate students can expect to get, especially with recent cuts to education.

“Between 1993 and 1998, $800 million has been whacked out of higher education in this country,” says Maclean’s Assistant Managing Editor Ann Dowsett Johnston. “It really sits squarely at the feet of undergraduates to pay the price.”

The U of C’s ranking in student services and scholarships and bursaries (both as a percentage of the budget) dropped to eight and nine, respectively, after placing third in both categories last year. According to U of C Students’ Union President Rob South, the change is misrepresentative.

“They’re monitoring a percentage of an absolute as opposed to an absolute,” he said. “The absolute would be a better figure because scholarships and bursaries actually went up by $1 million. We dropped from three to nine because [the university] changed [its] operating budget figure.”

The U of C ranked first in one category, operating budget per student, but Frideres says it’s a result of a new system of calculating both the number of full-time students (adjusting for those who don’t take five courses) and the total budget.

“We used to have an operating budget and a capital budget,” he said. “In Alberta these have merged and we take out what we want to out of the operating budget to spend on equipment and infrastructure, but it’s part of the operating budget.”

South added that performance envelopes, money earmarked for specific use, is included in the overall operating budget, even though the university cannot use it freely.

Frideres says the university is aware of the problems the rankings raise.

“It’s not as though we don’t deal with these things–we do,” he said. “We recognize there are some shortcomings. We’re doing all these things irregardless of how we perform on the Maclean’s rankings.”

South agreed that while some indicators may not present the full picture, the rankings do highlight areas where the U of C can improve, including the number of faculties with PhD’s, the number of classes taught by tenure-track faculty and the library’s budget.

“A number of things listed in the Maclean’s survey we could do a better job at, but we need more money from the province to do it,” said South. “We’re not that top-notch university I think the city deserves.”

Johnston says the rankings boil down to two things: government funding and the leadership of the universities.

“To run a university is complicated,” she said. “You have money coming in from here, you have money going out here–it’s about managing the system, and the question is, in managing that system, do you preserve a quality of situation for the undergraduate?”