Thursday, November 08, 2007

Spectacular Rises by Canadian Universities

The Canadian newspaper The Gazette has a report on the performance of Canadian universities in the 2007 rankings. McGill has risen from 21st place to 12th. The Gazette reports that:

McGill University is the cream of Canadian schools, the best public university in North America and ranks 12th among the world's top 200 universities, according to a prestigious global survey.

Released today, the Times Higher Education Supplement has McGill bounding up from last year's 21st place showing based on such factors as emphasis on science programs, the strong contingent of international students and faculty, student/faculty ratios, and publications by faculty and graduate researchers. Harvard placed first on the list, while Oxford, Cambridge and Yale tied for second spot.

The report puts McGill ahead of such research-intensive powerhouses as Duke, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Cornell. Findings are based on a combination of facts and opinions, with more than 5,000 academics around the world invited to rate a given institution. A key change in methodology this year made it impossible for professors to rate their own school.

"I'm really thrilled," said McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum, who sees the results as a vindication of McGill's disciplined approach to academic planning, targeted hiring of 800 new professors and efforts to enhance both research and the undergraduate experience.

There are even more spectacular rises by Montreal (181 to 108), Queens (176 to 88), Waterloo (204 to 112), Western Ontario (215 to 126) and Simon Fraser (266 to 166).

Changes like this are most unlikely to be produced by real improvements by the universities concerned. Either the methodological changes introduced by QS`are having a greater impact than expected or some serious errors have occurred.

Also, if the statement about 5,000 academics originated from QS does this mean that this year QS sent out only 5,000 e-mails instead of nearly 200,000 as they claimed they did last year or that they received 5,000 forms or that they counted 5,000?

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