Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Universities Consider New Ranking System

Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Universities Consider New Ranking System

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org


Canada’s universities, tired of the Maclean’s magazine university rating system, are quietly working to create their own academic program ranking system. A Federal government grant of $75,000 has funded a feasibility study and a group of universities are now ready to start ranking all academic programs by next fall. Students will be able to compare academic programs within Canadian universities to programs at U.S. Colleges.

Although the program is ‘totally in the hands of the academic people,” it is controversial and has raised the ire of some professors who complain that university rankings “skew academic priorities and motivate schools to make superficial changes” in an effort to move up the ranks. They use the example of the Philosophical Gourmet Report, an influential ranking of graduate programs in philosophy, criticizing it for influencing department priorities and hiring, while wiping out the undergraduate experience (Schmidt, 2004).

Plans for these rankings followed the revelation last year that senior administrators at the University of British Columbia had put pressure on faculty members to manipulate course enrolments and cap class sizes in an effort to improve the school’s Maclean’s rankings. Critics argue that rankings harm the academic profession as a whole by “promoting a narrow and inappropriate standard of departmental excellence,” hurting students without improving the learning environment.

Schmidt, Sarah (2004). Universities ponder controversial ranking system: Maclean’s-style measurement at heart of academic debate. CanWest news Service. In the Edmonton Journal, October 19, 2004.
Philosophical Gourmet Report: http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/