Editorial: Poor Housekeeping
Ah, the Maclean's survey. The one issue of the year which high school students, parents, university students and administrators wait for with bated breath. To see how the nation's universities fare in comparison with each other in the "definitive guide" provided by Canada's news magazine.
In case you haven't heard, Western sucks according to Maclean's. Well, it wasn't put in so many words, but the fact the university didn't even rank in most of the categories, pretty much translates into the same thing.
This is a typical attitude of those who criticize the survey, deeming Maclean's ranking categories to be obscure in the grand scheme of things and therefore not representative of what life is really like at Canadian universities.
But the rankings are used by several groups of people, particularly those in high school prospective university students. What other handbook do they have to evaluate one school from the next? So what kind of ammunition does Western have against these less than spectacular findings on behalf of Maclean's ?
Well, if the magazine had a category for best recruitment efforts, Western would be tops. The same day the survey is released, Western launched a shiny new advertising campaign and this latest recruiting effort is joined by a promotional video and handbook, a new centre for first-year students on campus and plans for yet another new residence to house hundreds more new students.
So perhaps it's safe to say Western has plenty of defence mechanisms against the not so high rankings when it comes to prospective students. But what about those who are already here and concerned about what affect these findings have on the value of their education?
What kind of consolation are upper-year students given to know that regardless of what these ranking show, they are receiving the high quality of education they deserve? When assessing undergraduate education, Maclean's designed their survey to measure each school's ability to preserve excellence in undergraduate education at a time when universities are faced with many challenges due to severe funding cuts. The top schools earned points for fostering strength in difficult times.
It's clear Western has taken initiatives to promote itself to potential incoming students but more students also means larger class sizes, less student/professor contact, less resources and more of a feeling that as a student, you are nothing more than a number.
The focus must now shift to improving excellence in the classroom and on campus, so once students get here, they have a little reassurance in second or third year that they made the right choice and might actually want to stay.