Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
November 18, 1998
Guelph holds second-place ranking in Maclean's magazine
For the second year in a row, U of G finished second in the country in its category in the annual Maclean's magazine universities ranking issue released last week.
The second-place showing doesn't tell the whole story, however. From 1997 to 1998, U of G maintained or improved its comparative performance in 10 of the 18 indicators for which the university provides data. This translated into higher rankings over last year in six categories and top three rankings in seven of the 21 categories.
Guelph also received a second-place ranking in its category in the Maclean's reputational survey of 4,700 corporate CEOs, administrators and high school guidance counsellors. In the all-categories nationwide reputational survey, U of G placed eighth out of the 48 institutions participating.
Dowsett Johnston says Guelph is well-established as a premier university. "I love Guelph — it's a fabulous institution," she says. "Other universities are searching for an identity. Guelph has a wonderful sense of who it is. This makes it a leader, ahead of the game. It's a strong residential school, and it knows and builds on its strengths. It bodes incredibly well for the future."
President Mordechai Rozanski says Guelph's high rating "reflects the excellence and dedication of our faculty, staff and students, and is testimony to our very talented academic and student affairs leadership, all working under challenging conditions given the financial fragility of Ontario universities and our position as 10th out of 10 provinces in per capita funding."
Dowsett Johnston doesn't shy from the funding issue either, calling the current situation "critical" and describing the funding of Ontario universities in recent years as "punitive in the extreme."
The quality of humanities and social sciences research at Guelph was reflected in a jump of two full places (from sixth to fourth) in the category measuring Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) research grant success. Of the five Ontario "comprehensives," U of G ranked first in awards per eligible faculty and second in SSHRC dollars per eligible faculty.
Acting College of Arts dean Gerald Manning thinks U of G's success rate with SSHRC "is a result of a continuing recognition here that research and teaching inform each other and that striving for quality in both areas leads to overall quality and creates engaged, committed students."
Prof. Ron Hinch, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, believes faculty in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences are successful "because we are doing more and more collaborative research, and research that is at the cutting edge of our disciplines." He adds, however, that focusing only on awards from SSHRC neglects the fact that many U of G researchers also receive funding from other agencies, such as the Canadian International Development Agency and the International Development Research Centre, which are not included in the Maclean's survey.
Guelph received top-three marks in Maclean's magazine's four student quality measures, which included a first-place nod in a category measuring the proportion of students who graduate. Second-place category finishes were recorded in student awards and in the proportion of incoming students with an average of 75 per cent or higher.
"Faculty, staff in residence, library staff and students in the peer programs show genuine concern in supporting entering students as they rise to the challenging demands of excelling as learners in a university context," says drama professor Ann Wilson, co-director of the Office of First-Year Studies. "New students feel welcome at Guelph. A sense of belonging creates the foundation for effective learning."
Rozanski agrees: "Students are attracted to Guelph because we are a learner-centred university with first-class faculty, innovative and excellent programs, and a highly residential and caring community".
Page 45 of the Maclean's issue features a photo of three first-year U of G students, with Trevor Douglas front and centre. "I decided on Guelph because the campus is beautiful and I really liked the size of the school," says Douglas, a management economics major. "There are plenty of smaller classes, but not so small that you're limited in choice. So far, this university is everything I hoped it would be and much more. The classes are interactive and interesting, and the diverse and multicultural nature of residence makes it a rich and exciting place to live."
Both learners and teachers came in for plaudits from Maclean's. Guelph jumped from fifth to third place in a category that measures classes taught by tenured faculty, a reflection of a real seven-per-cent jump in this area in the past year (to 70.2 per cent). U of G maintained a third-place ranking in faculty with PhDs, although that figure doesn't reflect that the percentage of faculty on campus with a doctorate actually rose nearly a full percentage point, to 97.2 per cent.
One number that on the surface appeared disappointing was a 10th-place ranking in a category measuring scholarships and bursaries. Here, U of G suffers because of constraints of the Maclean's measures, which assess awards only as a percentage of the operating budget. Guelph has chosen to strategically support student awards through other funding sources, including the endowment. From a ranking standpoint, it means a disappointing (and misleading) 10th-place finish, although, in fact, student assistance at U of G has increased by 675 per cent to $7.6 million over the last decade.
The news is not all good. "What these gratifying reputational rankings conceal is the fragility of Ontario universities' financial condition and the threats to our ability to sustain quality into the future," says Rozanski. "If we do not see a restoration of public funding to at least the national average, we will not be able to meet the expectations of Ontarians in the 21st century. Consider that we confront the challenges of a double cohort of students in 2003 when Grade 13 is eliminated -- 40,000 to 50,000 additional students -- our class sizes are already large and growing, our libraries are underfunded, our classrooms and physical infrastructure are deteriorating, and we are facing a faculty retirement bulge in Ontario beginning in 2001. The only solution to protect the quality and accessibility of post-secondary institutions in this province is the restoration of public funding."
One further Maclean's U of G mention — an article "Reinventing the Classroom" described Guelph's joint distance education MBA program in agriculture with Athabasca University.