University Rankings 1997: Methodology (Nov97 Updates)

The Maclean's ranking compares universities with similar structures and mandates.

This article was originally published in Maclean's Magazine on November 24, 1997

The Maclean's ranking compares universities with similar structures and mandates.This article was originally published in Maclean's Magazine on November 24, 1997

University Rankings 1997: Methodology (Nov97 Updates)

The Maclean's ranking compares universities with similar structures and mandates. Using such factors as research funding, diversity of offerings and the range of PhD programs to define peer groups, the universities are placed in one of three categories:


Universities with a broad range of PhD programs and research, as well as medical schools.


Universities with a significant amount of research activity and a wide range of programs - including professional degrees - at the graduate and undergraduate levels.


Universities largely focused on undergraduate education, with relatively few graduate programs.

The universities in the three categories are treated as separate but equal. Maclean's ranks the schools on a range of factors in six broad groupings (weightings are in parentheses below). In total, Primarily Undergraduate universities are ranked on 20 performance measures, Comprehensive schools on 21 and Medical/Doctoral on 22 - resulting in slightly different weightings for some performance measures.

STUDENT BODY (21 to 22 per cent of final score):

Students are enriched by the input of their peers. For that reason, Maclean's collects the incoming students' average high-school grades (12%), and the proportion of those with averages of 75 per cent or more (3%). As a measure of drawing power, the magazine also counts the proportion of out-of-province students in the first-year undergraduate class (1%) and, for Comprehensive and Medical/Doctoral universities, the percentage of international students at the graduate level (1%). The student-body section also includes graduation rates (2%): the percentage of full-time undergraduate students in their second year (after the initial wave of first-year dropouts) who go on to graduate from the institution within one year of the expected time period. In addition, Maclean's collects data on the success of the student body at winning national academic awards (3%) over the past five years.

CLASSES (17 to 18 per cent):

The rankings embrace the entire distribution of class sizes at the first- and second-year levels (7.5% for Primarily Undergraduate universities, 7% for the other two categories), as well as the third- and fourth-year levels (7.5% for the Primarily Undergraduate category, 7% for the others). Class-size groupings are: 1 to 25; 26 to 50; 51 to 100; 101 to 250; 251 to 500; 501 plus. Maclean's also ranks schools on the percentage of first-year classes taught by tenured and tenure-track professors (3%), a measure of how much access new students have to top faculty.

FACULTY (17 per cent):

The rankings assess the calibre of faculty by calculating the percentage of those with PhDs (3%), and the number who win national awards (3%). In addition, the magazine measures the success of eligible faculty in securing grants from each of the three major federal granting agencies (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Medical Research Council of Canada), as well as the Canada Council, taking into account both the number and the dollar value received last year. Social sciences and humanities grants and Canada Council grants (5.5%) and medical/science grants (5.5%) were tallied as separate indicators.

FINANCES (12 per cent):

This section examines the amount of money available for current expenses per weighted full-time-equivalent student (3.3%), as well as the percentage of the budget spent on student services (4.3%) and scholarships and bursaries (4.3%). When presenting their general operating budget, institutions deducted any funds used to pay off debt.

LIBRARY (12 per cent):

This section assesses the breadth and currency of the university's collection. Schools received points for the number of volumes and volume equivalents per total number of students (4% for Primarily Undergraduate and Comprehensive, 3% for Medical/Doctoral). An additional indicator, measuring total holdings, regardless of student numbers, was used in the Medical/Doctoral category (1%) to acknowledge the importance of extensive on-campus collections in those universities. Maclean's measured as well the percentage of a university's operating budget that was allocated to library services (4%) and the percentage of the actual library budget that was spent on updating the collection (4%).

REPUTATION (20 per cent):

This section reflects a school's reputation with its own graduates, as well as within the community at large. When looking at alumni support, schools received points for the number - not the value - of gifts to the university over the past five years (5%). For its reputational survey, Maclean's polled more than 3,500 individuals (15%). They included chief executive officers of corporations in every region, a broad range of university administrators, and guidance counsellors from high schools across the country. They rated the schools in three categories: Highest Quality, Most Innovative and Leaders of Tomorrow.

Maclean's November 24, 1997