Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Maclean's University Rankings Gets Failing Grade

Here in the Great White North, one of our big magazines is Maclean's. You'll find it in most doctors' offices. My (recently former) housemate Dan collects them. They in turn collect dust but that's besides the point.

...or maybe not so much. 'Cause, you see, there is some debate as to how worthy this magazine is of being read.

Probably the most popular issue every year for Maclean's is their "Canadian university rankings" issue. As one would expect, this brings out great pride and debate amongst the educated readers.

But, see, I've always questioned the findings, even though my alma mater, the University of Toronto, has always found itself at or near the very top - deservedly so.

It always seemed to me that Maclean's was just pulling opinions out of their asses and passing it off as fact. I mean, how could they possibly compare student life (let alone programs) between universities without having attended them all? A survey is unscientific since it depends on the disposition of the surveyed. It could be that people who attend a certain university are more intelligent and therefore more critical - making the university in question seem undesirable when in fact it is the elite.

So I've kinda taken the whole thing with a massive grain of salt. Especially when Montreal-based McGill outranks UofT.

If you've read any of these issues, you've probably noticed that not all universities participate. Many of the smaller universities opt out of the survey - probably because they wouldn't get a favourable ranking anyways. They'll tell you it's because the grading is unfair, but that's always sounded like sour grapes.

...But now the big dogs are starting to bark.

Seems this year the University of Toronto has opted out, along with some other notables like UBC, the University of Alberta, and McMaster University.


Eleven universities in total have opted out, citing the flawed data and arbitrary conclusions.

Regardless, Maclean's says they're going ahead with the annual issue.

Geez, McGill is a lock this year.

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
-Eric Hoffer

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