Maclean’s University Ranking Methodology
One of the most popular university rankings in Canada is done by Maclean’s. On occasion, I have read through Maclean’s to see where the universities I have attended (and am currently attending!) rank. Yet, I never put much thought into how the results were generated. That is, until I read Weapons of Math Destruction. I decided to do some digging to see if I could learn more about the ranking process (especially since I have been both a student and employee of higher education institutions). It turns out, there are 5 key factors that determine a university’s ranking, according to Maclean’s. Key factor number one is the student population. Maclean’s uses data from Statistics Canada that looks at student awards, the full-time student to faculty ratio, extracurriculars, student life staff, mental health, advising, residence life, administration, experiential learning, instructors, sexual assault protocols, and indigenous study initiatives. Key factor number two is the faculty population. Maclean’s looks at the number of awards and grants, and research publications done by each faculty member. Key factor number three is resource allocation, such as the amount of money per student, research funding, and library budgets. Key factor number four is student support. This includes the student services budget, bursaries, and scholarships. The last key factor is reputation. In other words, how well are students prepared for the real world? To measure this, several senior administrators, faculty members, high school guidance counsellors, and business people are interviewed. As you might have expected, there are highly subjective factors at play. However, there are also seemingly objective factors that may skew results, such as the fact that awards and funding are often self-perpetuating. It might also not be too far a stretch to suggest institutions with co-op programs or internships would be better perceived by the public than those who do not. Moreover, while it might be easy to turn to Maclean’s to see how well an institution ranks amongst others, it is important to do so with a critical lens.