University rises in Maclean’s survey

The University of Calgary has problems with the university ranking processes of Maclean’s magazine.

According to the 18th annual university rankings publication, the U of C placed seventh in the medical doctoral universities category, an improvement from 10th place last year and up from 13th in 2006, but to U of C administration, the ranking doesn’t mean much.

“It’s not meaningful,” said vice-provost students Ann Tierney. “It doesn’t help respond to our students and to try and improve the experience for our students.”

She prefers referring to results from the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Canadian Undergraduate Survey Consortium to determine attitudes about student experience.

“I think the bigger issue is we don’t really know what methodology they’re using and what they’re comparing when they compare things,” said Tierney referring to the Maclean’s report.

Released on Nov. 24, Maclean’s university ranking issue took a look at students, classes, faculty, resources, student support, libraries and reputations of 47 Canadian universities. The schools were divided into undergraduate, comprehensive and medical doctoral categories. The U of C is in the medical doctoral category due to its range of PhD programs and research.

The Maclean’s publication also features articles on the transition from high school to university, choosing extra-curricular activities, a review of campus restaurants across the country and advice on finding scholarships and student loans, which Tierney believes students could find useful.

“There are so many options and choices that students have,” she said, suggesting students consult a variety of sources to find out which university is best suited for their goals and interests, rather than just referring to Maclean’s statistics as a sole determining factor for choosing a university.

In the past, when the school was ranked quite low, the university stated that these rankings were unimportant for determining the quality of an institution. Now that the school appears to be doing better in these ratings, Tierney assured the university has not changed its attitude towards the rankings.

“It would be unreasonable of us to say, ‘Oh now we’re happy because we placed higher,’ ” she said. “If we have concerns about the methodology and how they do things and what they’re comparing, it doesn’t really matter to us if we’re higher or lower.”

Students’ Union vice-president academic Pamela Weatherbee doesn’t feel that the rankings adequately represent student opinion.

“The things that Maclean’s are ranking are very number specific, very statistic heavy,” said Weatherbee. “It’s not necessarily satisfaction.”

She thinks consulting students directly, at events like the Discussion Deli, tuition consultations and the SU survey are more valuable for determining student satisfaction than comparing schools across the country.

“You have to think about what they’re actually measuring,” she said.

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