Volume 92, Issue 34

Wednesday, November 4, 1998

millions of bad feelings


Bad feelings resurface

By Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

While Maclean's annual magazine ranking Canadian universities is just over a week away, Western has already begun to express its disapproval of the survey.

The university has expressed concern about the reliability and validity of the survey, said Western's VP-administration, Peter Mercer. The ranking is not a feasible survey, he added.

Ann Dowsett Johnston, assistant managing editor for Maclean's, said she stands by the survey and added the questions will not change this year.

The survey will be left the way it is to maintain the continuity of the survey and also because the universities who have expressed concern with the survey do not agree with their neighbours, Dowsett Johnston added. "Universities would be at odds with each other."

While Mercer said he would be speculating as to the influence of the impact of the survey, he recognized this issue is a big seller for Maclean's. "One has to assume it is influential to some degree."

Western psychology professor Harry Murray also disagreed with the survey. "I don't think there are any good measures of the quality of education." He added the survey is not measuring what Maclean's claims they are measuring.

Murray said the survey can be vary damaging and added he was surprized Maclean's has not been sued by some schools for libel.

"I question the validity of some of the submissions," said Ian Armour, University Students' Council president.

"Some schools take the Maclean's rating to heart more than other schools," Armour said. "If some [schools] have to improve their grade they could doctor their results."

Mercer said students are taking more of their own initiative to research the schools because of the rising costs of post secondary education. "I don't think the Maclean's survey will carry much weight in the future," Mercer said.

Still, universities were consulted about the questions for the survey from the beginning. "The ranking was designed co-operatively with universities across the country," Dowsett Johnston explained.

She said the survey is a complex multi-page document which is given to each university on disk in June. The information collected from the universities is then handed over to an independent statistician who looks for liars, she added.

"We're right down to the wire," Dowsett Johnston said, adding the final ranking of the universities is still not complete.

The Maclean's university rankings will be available on Nov. 16.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998