Volume 12, Number 7 November 19, 2004

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U of S slips 1 spot in Maclean's rankings

Called no cause for concern, & jump in reputation called progress

By Colleen MacPherson

A drop of one spot in Maclean’s magazine’s ranking of Canadian universities is neither good news nor bad news for the University of Saskatchewan, according to the president, who believes the survey “is what it is” – just one piece of information about the institution.

At a news conference Nov. 8 where he responded to the U of S falling to 10th place from ninth last year among the country’s 15 medical-doctoral schools, Peter MacKinnon said the institution should pay attention to the Maclean’s survey “in part because we know others pay attention to Maclean’s, (but) we measure our success by our own criteria rather than those set by Maclean’s.”

And Maclean’s “doesn’t tell us everything,” he said. “It doesn’t purport to assess the quality of programs. We have a burden to tell our communities about that. Maclean’s has its story to tell, and we have to make sure our story is told as well.”

He noted that the differences between surveyed universities is so minimal that slight movement up or down in the ranking is “predictable”, but he could not say precisely why the U of S moved down this year. MacKinnon did point out that in reputation, one of 24 categories measured in the survey, the U of S went up two places, to ninth from 11th in 2003. This, he said, is “an important indicator” that supports “the view that we’re making progress.” He added that the opening of the Canadian Light Source synchrotron in October came too late “to have an impact on the reputational component of the survey.”

Looking at the survey categories, the U of S went down in nine with the biggest drop, from seventh spot last year to 15th in 2004, coming in a measurement of the amount spent on student services as percentage of budget. Other indicators in this group include proportion of students who graduate, classes taught by tenured faculty, and faculty with PhDs.

In addition to being last on the list when it comes to spending on student services, the U of S dropped into last spot in the category of scholarships and bursaries as a percentage of the budget. This result confirms for MacKinnon “that we’re not where we want to be on financial assistance to students.”

On the up side, the U of S gained one spot in the areas of social science and humanities grants, and library acquisitions, and two spots in three categories: operating budget, reputation and student retention.

The ranking remained unchanged in 10 categories, the highest being first spot in international graduate students and class sizes in third and fourth year. The lowest rankings – 15th out of 15 – were in student awards and medical/science grants.

The medical/doctoral universities ranked ahead of the U of S are, from first to eighth, Toronto, McGill, Western, UBC, Queen’s, Alberta, Montreal, and in a tie for eighth, McMaster and Sherbrooke. It was McMaster’s move up to eighth this year that bumped the U of S down one spot. Ranked lower than the U of S are Laval, Ottawa, Dalhousie, Calgary and Manitoba.

Medical/doctoral institutions are those with medical colleges and a wide range of graduate and professional programs.

MacKinnon said it is important to balance the Maclean’s survey with the University’s own priorities set out in Strategic Directions and the Integrated Planning process.

“We’re going to stick to the plan we have, and stick to our four-year budget. We’re not going to change our plans based on the Maclean’s survey.”

He added that the U of S’s “trajectory” in the survey “has been upward these last few years and I hope that will be renewed in the near future.”

In the category of comprehensive universities, the University of Regina ranked sixth out of 11, unchanged from last year.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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