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Concordia climbs in Maclean's survey

Concordia ranked 10th out of 12 universities in the "comprehensive" category in the Maclean's magazine rankings, published in a special issue of the national magazine last week.

In order, the institutions in Concordia's category were Guelph, Simon Fraser, Waterloo, Victoria, York, Memorial, Carleton, Windsor, New Brunswick, Concordia, Regina and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

In the "medical/doctoral" category, the University of Toronto placed first, the University of British Columbia and Queen's University tied for second place, and McGill placed fourth; the Université de Montréal placed ninth, Université Laval 11th, and the Université de Sherbrooke 13th. Bishop's came seventh in the "primarily undergraduate" category.

In general, the rankings reflect how badly Quebec universities have been hurt by the funding cutbacks of recent years, and how they are falling behind other Canadian universities in this respect. Ontario, for example, has seen university funding go up 4.2 per cent in 1998-99, while Quebec's has gone down by 4.5 per cent. However, to look on the bright side, Concordia was the only Quebec university whose ranking went up. Last year, it was 12th out of 12.

This movement reflects the fact that Concordia seems to be attracting better students, particularly for our strongest programs. However, Lise Tremblay, Director of Institutional Research, suggests using caution when examining this modest improvement, saying that "the quality of students tends to fluctuate from one year to the next."

Concordia still tends to be penalized for its accessibility. The category "average entering grade," in which we were ranked 11th out of 12, is weighted to account for 12 per cent of the total ranking. Concordia has improved in terms of "alumni support" (from seventh to sixth), but stayed the same in the "reputational survey" (ninth), which is weighted to account for 15 per cent.

Our early retirement programs and difficulty in hiring, retaining and competing for best professors due to the budget cuts is reflected in several categories. In the category "first-year classes taught by tenured professors," we moved to last place, down from ninth, and in terms of "faculty with PhDs," we placed seventh.

The full impact of our successful capital campaign will only begin to be reflected in the next five years of the Maclean's rankings. The survey works on a five-year average up to May 1998, which was before the end of our campaign.

In the end, the Maclean's rankings are highly approximate and therefore to be taken with a grain of salt. Tremblay sounds a cautionary note: "I do not believe that most of the non-financial indicators are comparable because there is no standardized and verified reporting of the data submitted by the universities."

- Barbara Black

Copyright 1999 Concordia's Thursday Report.