Students and faculty at University of Calgary can claim that we are not last in Maclean's most recent Canadian university rankings.
Placing 14th out of 15 in the medical/doctoral category just ahead of Manitoba, the U of C dropped from the 12th place position it has held for three years.
In an e-mail addressed to all students sent on Wed., Nov. 13, U of C President Harvey Weingarten addressed the rankings which will appear in the Nov. 18 issue of Maclean's.
"I'm not happy with the results and I'm sure neither are you," he wrote. "But I want to say first that I have great confidence in this university's ability to rise to the challenge. I have confidence in our faculty, staff and students, and I have confidence in our leaders."
On Sunday, U of C Vice-President Communications Roman Cooney said that reasons why the U of C is not in the top ten are varied.
"One of the reasons is population growth," said Cooney. "Calgary has grown faster than any other city in the country, putting pressure on the university."
Cooney cited the nascent state of the university's academic plan, implementation of which began this spring, as a reason why the
U of C did not rise in rank. He also conceded that class sizes are too large and that resources are lacking.
Students' Union President Matt Stambaugh was disappointed with the U of C's rank and attributed the cause to inadequate funding.
"The problem is under-funding from the government," said Stambaugh. "The U of C has been severely disadvantaged by provincial government policy and does not have the flexibility it needs."
Another part of the problem, according to Weingarten, has been the U of C's undergraduate recruiting strategy.
"Although the U of C has gone to extraordinary lengths to take in more students in recent years, that in turn has created all the more pressure to set priorities," wrote Weingarten. "In the past couple of weeks, we announced our intention to manage our undergraduate enrollments strategically, limiting our undergraduate student numbers to current levels of around 23,000."
Cooney suggested another possible solution.
"If it's necessary to raise the [entrance] grade point average to get us into that upper tier--that's one of the measures that Maclean's uses--then that may be part of the equation," he said.
Despite its low placement, Cooney hopes that changes at the U of C to attract and retain both students and researchers will improve the U of C's rank.
"We have told students and professors and researchers that we are going to make the decisions that need to be made to get us into that upper tier," said Cooney. "To attract and retain the best and the brightest, not just students but researchers and professors, we have to move ahead on a number of things."
Stambaugh was concerned that the administration might increase its emphasis on research.
"It gives good impetus for the administration to drive some radical changes," said Stambaugh. "The U of C has some ambitious goals of getting into the top five for research and top ten overall as Canadian universities go.
"We emphasize research so much already, there's got to be something else we can do to get our rating up," he continued. "They're going to say we need differential tuition to finance more research."
Differential tuition is one options being considered, said Cooney.
"In other universities in Canada, differential tuition is part of the mix," said Cooney. "Differential tuition is part of the debate that is underway right now, but we have to have that debate."
"It's a knee-jerk reaction," said Stambaugh. "Massive differentials are the U of C's way of spending their way up the ladder. Look at St. Francis Xavier, why do undergrads love it so much?"
St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia has a fixed tuition of $4,940 per year for a full course load placed first in Maclean's undergraduate group of universities.
Cooney disclaimed the importance of the rankings.
"Maclean's is just one measure," he said. "The point is not whether we should be two up or two down, the point is we don't want to be in the bottom half of the rankings.
"In a lot of fields, this university is among the top ten universities in the country; in Medicine, in public policy," he continued. "The issues that tend to dog us aren't related to enrollment or the number of students we have, but to factors we don't have control over."
The University of Toronto placed first among medical/research universities.