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A mixed message sent
In a presentation he made recently to the Board of Governors, Rector
Frederick Lowy said the following: The general quality of our students
(as measured by incoming grade point average), their learning experience
(as measured by the graduation rate and employability of students), and
the emergence of several programs of nationally recognized distinction
confirm that we provide not only real education for the real world,
but also education (especially undergraduate education) that is at least
the equal of what other universities offer.
The incoming grade point average may be higher than before, but this is
merely a reflection of grade point inflation. A better measure is the
knowledge of students when they arrive at Concordia. Examination of the
weakening of course content to meet inadequacies is seen when todays
curricula are compared with those of a decade ago. Regrettably, I am led
to the conclusion that the general quality of undergraduate students on
entry is low and is decreasing.
What matters, and what is being ignored, is what students know when they
enter and when they leave Concordia. Neither of these is being measured.
Certainly in Engineering and Computer Science, we do not measure what
students know on entry; nor is any assessment made when they leave.
This conclusion is consistent with the agreement with the provincial government
that we should pass 80 per cent of incoming students in exchange for money,
implying that numbers beat knowledge, or quantity is more
important than quality. It is a Faustian deal.
Regarding research, until very recently, Concordia did not even recognize
the existence of post-doctoral fellows. Some deans still do not recognize
it as meritorious having them, whereas graduate students do count towards
merit. There is little research culture, and this may be a consequence
of our beginnings. The highest national academic award (FRSC, Fellow of
the Royal Society of Canada) goes deliberately unrecognized in the undergraduate
To the end of informing the public and one another, Concordia (departments
and faculties) should publish an annual research report of publications.
Why is this not done?
Unrealistic internal assessments of our quality and achievements do not
help. Ultimately, we are judged, not by what we think of ourselves, but
what the external world thinks of us. I believe it remains puzzled.
John McKay, FRSC
Department of Computer Science
Department of Mathematics and Statistics