November 11, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 40  

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Western maintains solid Maclean's rank

By Laura Katsirdakis
and Dan Perry

Gazette Staff
Rachel Cartwright/Gazette
TAKE THE SQUARE ROOT OF THE DENOMINATOR AND IT WILL EQUAL THE RECIPROCAL OF PIE TIMES SIX. Prof. Erdle teaches a second-year stats class at Huron University College.

Another year, another university report from Maclean’s magazine; and again, another shared bronze medal for Western.

For the second straight year, Western wound up in a tie for third place, this time with Queen’s University, which flip-flopped with McGill University, which took second place. The University of Toronto was still No. 1 according to the magazine, with the University of British Columbia again rounding out the top five.

Maclean’s sent out the 17-page questionnaire to all universities in Canada in June and the data was compiled by editors.

Ann Dowsett Johnston, editor-at-large at Maclean’s, noted an important change in methodology this year: the addition of student retention to the criteria.

“We’ve been interested in adding an output measurement [to ask] ‘what’s the university giving you?’” Dowsett Johnston said. “Western did very well by that indicator,” she added, noting universities had been reluctant to provide output information in the past.

Dowsett Johnston remarked that of 17 universities in Ontario, only two rose in stature. “I think that’s really a telling comment. You have an extraordinary number of universities falling in this province, which isn’t surprising given the [increased] number of students coming in,” she said.

“I think what’s really alarming is some of the numbers across the country,” Dowsett Johnson said, when asked about the introductory article in the report, which indicated there is a failure to plan ahead when it comes to the rising number of students enrolling in universities.

Dowsett Johnston asked what will happen when the double cohort moves on in their studies; a student’s admission to first year does not mean they will get into the program they want in second or third year, she pointed out.

“There has not been sufficient faculty hiring across the board [to account for the rising numbers of students],” Dowsett Johnson said.

“The Maclean’s article was looking at the picture across the country and not at individual institutions — at Western we’ve been planning for a long time,” said Alan Weedon, vice-provost policy, planning and faculty. He noted Western’s five-year strategic plan of 2001 accommodated the increase in students with provisions to hire additional faculty.

“We need similar large increases in public funding if we are to hire the faculty and staff we need to provide quality education,” said Western President Paul Davenport. “Over the last two decades public funding has fallen far behind enrollment, with the result that our student-to-faculty ratio in Canada has risen substantially. We need to turn that trend around and the key is more public funding.”

Davenport said he was pleased with the results. “When we survey students when they graduate, we get a high degree of satisfaction,” he said, adding the Maclean’s results paralleled those of The Globe and Mail’s recent University Report Card, which relied completely on student feedback.

“I believe there’s information to have in both approaches, [but] in both cases, a healthy skepticism is warranted,” Davenport added.



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