Volume 91, Issue 45

Wednesday, November 19, 1997



On cloud nine?: Maclean's ranks Western

By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Gazette Staff

The seventh annual Maclean's ranking of universities hit the stands yesterday but the shiny gold cover held little promise for Western who didn't even get the bronze.

Western, ranked with schools in the medical/doctoral category, placed ninth out of 15 overall, 10th in highest quality and was nonexistent in categories ranking "most innovative" and "leaders of tomorrow" while the University of Toronto and Queen's University were two of several schools who saw their way to top marks in a majority of sections.

Rankings from the survey placed post-secondary institutions in one of three categories made up of schools with either a medical/doctoral approach, a comprehensive approach or universities which focus primarily on undergraduate programs. Yet in a national reputational ranking, which included all the schools, Western did not even place in the top 15.

Ann Dowsett Johnston, assistant managing editor at Maclean's, said in light of the fact this is the first year since 1993 in which all universities participated in the survey, Western did not do that badly.

"Others moved ahead but Western did not really fall behind," Johnston said. Out of the 1,000 point ranking system, Western actually went up 16 points as noted in certain categories which placed Western fourth in alumni support and sixth in medical/science grants.

"I think the main purpose of the survey is to raise the profile of universities so the federal government will realize [the universities] are in need of help," Johnston said. "It is going to take [Western president] Paul Davenport's inspired leadership to bring Western to where it is going."

Davenport said students and their teachers are putting a very heavy weight on direct testimony and not as much on Maclean's. Independant of the Maclean's message, Davenport said he is confident they can get a positive message out to the public.

VP-academic Greg Moran said Western believes students have become increasingly selective in their choice of a post-secondary institution. "Western has tried to concentrate on getting the message out and we can see real results in that we're attracting more students with better grades." Enrollment has increased 10 per cent in 1997, he added.

A Maclean's Commission, as proposed by the University Students' Council President Ryan Parks, will attempt to take a detailed look at the survey and how the university was presented to Maclean's. The commission is to be used in highlighting certain areas, Parks added.

"The Maclean's survey is not the be-all-and-end-all of surveys and I am hesitant to put too much emphasis on ranking," he said. "The commission is only part of my campaign promises."

David Bellhouse, a statistics professor in the department of statistics and actuarial sciences at Western, said the outcome of a survey often depends on how the information is collected, how the answers are weighted and how close each school is in ranking. "If you have measurements on various organizations, you have to ask whether the difference is all that big."

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Copyright The Gazette 1997