On Nov. 12, Maclean’s released its annual ranking of Canadian universities. The ranking has traditionally been a thorn in the side of Brock’s faculty and administration, as the school has often done poorly. This year, however, Brock was ranked at No. 12 — firmly in the middle of the pack. More importantly, however, is that Brock jumped three spots in the ranking, from 15 in 2000. This was the second biggest jump in the country, following Lakehead, which went to No. 13, after finishing dead last at 21 last year. The University of Prince Edward Island also jumped three spots, from18 to 15.
Brock University President David Atkinson attributed the school’s jump in ranking to a number of factors, including the higher calibre of first-years entering the school.
“Our admission average for entering students has gone up quite a bit in the past year,” said Atkinson.
“The reason we’re getting more high end students has to do with the curricular changes we’ve made.
“The focus on applied learning [such as co-op programs] has helped attract these students.”
Atkinson did acknowledge the danger of focusing on applied learning, however, saying “We have to be careful. University is not just ‘what am I going to do after I graduate.’”
He said that Brock’s improvement Maclean’s “reputation” category is a result of “the message of Brock University is … getting out there. People are taking notice of us.”
Despite being impressed with the school’s improved performance, Atkinson still expressed some reserve in declaring Maclean’s ranking as the definitive measure of a university.
“I’m very skeptical of these sorts of measurements. There are all sorts of measurements, many of which never see the press,” said Atkinson. “For example, every year the Ontario government measures the number of students working two years after graduation. For the past two years we’ve ranked No. 1. [Maclean’s] looks at the percentage of students from out of province. Well, if you’re down here in Southern Ontario, you’re not going to get a whole lot of students from Manitoba and Quebec. Whereas if you’re Mount Allison, which sits on the border of Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick, it’s no surprise that 60 per cent of your students come from out of province. We rank second [in Canada] for the number of faculty with completed Ph.Ds. We do very well in external research funding.
“But it is a measure, it has shown us some very interesting things. It told us we needed more external research funding, it showed us that our entrance averages were slipping … the changes we’ve made would be reflected, even in a ranking that we don’t completely agree with.”
Brock University Student Union (BUSU) President Duncan Small is impressed with Brock’s jump in the Maclean’s standings, but acknowledges that their importance can be blown out of proportion.
“It’s phenomenal that Brock moved up so much … the university made a concerted effort to raise our ranking so that the rest of Canada can see what amazing things are going on here,” said Small.
“I don’t think anybody in the academic world thinks [the ranking] is relevant,” he said. “But I think that potential students and employers see it as a benchmark.”