Volume 12, Number 16 April 15, 2005

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Canadian universities trail U.S. in quality of student experience

TORONTO – The results of a “dismal” survey published last month in the Toronto Star show that while Canadian universities are keeping up with their U.S. counterparts academically, they are lagging behind in the quality of the student experience.

Last year, eight Canadian institutions, including heavyweights like the University of Toronto, Queen’s, McGill, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia, participated for the first time in the National Survey of Student Engagement. According to the newspaper report, the universities were prompted to take part by concerns over sliding quality – line-ups on campus, extra-large classes, stale teaching and outdated services. Run by the Indiana University Centre for Postsecondary Research, the survey measures everything from how often students talk with their professors to how welcome those students are made to feel on campus.

The Canadian universities placed last overall. One president, David Johnston of the University of Waterloo, pointed out student-faculty ratios are “a huge factor in Canada”, standing at around 25-to-1 compared to 10-to-1 at the University of Michigan and as low as 4-to-1 at Oxford, Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Among other findings:

  • Canadian schools scored about the same as American on "level of academic challenge", including the number of required readings and assigned papers, and difficulty of course work.
  • Canadians scored, on average, behind American schools on "student-faculty interaction" - informal discussion and feedback on assignments.
  • Canadian universities also scored behind American ones on providing a "supportive campus environment". This measure looks at indicators like student services, friendliness of officials and the quality of relationships with peers.

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

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