McGill and UofT Ranked

Speaking of university rankings, McGill University describes its presence in the Princeton Review as praise. Their actual rankings in distinct categories are [drumroll, please…]:

The first category (rare class discussions) is surprising to me because, in my experience (taught at two universities in Quebec, two in Indiana, two in Massachusetts, and one in New Brunswick), university students in Quebec tend to discuss quite openly in class, much more so than U.S. students. But these rankings are based on perception, not analysis of classroom behaviour, AFAIK. And McGill has a high proportion of students from the United States.

In my mind, Concordia University would be likely to rank higher in “race/class interaction” as it’s a well-known part of people’s experience there (faculty, students, and administrators frequently discuss diversity issues). And since Concordia’s campus is quite close to McGill’s, it’s quite possible that Concordia would rank close to McGill for the “college town” category. Although, McGill students tend to live close to campus (including in the so-called McGill Ghetto) while Concordia students are scattered across town. Still, Montreal is considered a cool “college town” by people who attend all of its four universities.

The other Canadian university in the Princeton Review rankings is University of Toronto, which is similarly “praised“:

Hmmm… Where’s the UofT press release about its consecration by The Princeton Review? Can’t wait to see how they spin it. “At UofT, we pride ourselves for our groundbreaking approach to teaching. Students are encouraged to work by themselves, without the hassles of communicating with their professors or with their fellow students.”

Of course, those rankings aren’t based on stereotypes or frivolous factors. After all, which serious ranking wouldn’t have a category for “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians?” Maybe rankings made by “Dr. Martens-Wearing, Tree-Cutting, Non-Smoking Omnivores.”
It’s quite difficult to compare Canadian universities with those in the U.S. because the systems are quite different from one another. For instance, tuition fees at (publicly-funded but private university) McGill are quite low ($1,668 for “Out-of-State Tuition”) and a full bachelor’s degree in one of Quebec’s universities is typically three years (because Quebec has a separate program between high school and university). So a full degree at McGill can cost less than $6,000. The “Best Value College” according to The Princeton Review is the University of Central Florida which charges $17,017 a year for Out-of-State students. Other expenses seem fairly similar between these two universities. UCF’s ranking is 16th for “Their Students (Almost) Never Study,” which is obviously a very important factor in selecting an institution of higher learning. We wouldn’t want these kind souls to be wasting their time studying! So, “best value” in the U.S. is quite different from “best value” in Canada. (AFAIK, no Canadian university charges as much as $17,000 a year in tuition fees.)

Ah, well…

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

5 responses to “McGill and UofT Ranked

  • enkerli

    Scott,

    Thanks for your insight!
    Along with your comment about population diversity, the fact that you currently live in Australia seems to imply that you are flexible enough to look beyond national borders. This, to me personally, is the mark of open-mindedness and might translate into net advantages in a globalised world. So, congratulations for this.

    You do seem to confirm that McG’s primarily competing with U.S. universities. Never heard of the “Canadian Ivy” moniker but it does sound like what some people over there are trying to make of that institution.
    Your specific points are quite interesting. I’m quite surprised that you had less interaction with professors than your peers had at U.S. universities. I thought McG students had more interactions with professors than most people do at expensive U.S. universities (but still less than at Concordia and other North American universities). So I might have been way off with this. Worth investigating.
    On drug and alcohol use, it’s possible that there is, in fact, more alcohol consumed at McG than at an expensive university in the United States (especially given drinking age). Yet it’s possible that the cultural differences you mention might have some positive impacts on McG. The author of Binge has been using McG as an example of a university where alcohol abuse wasn’t much of an issue, even among students from the United States. This was in direct contrast with several universities in the United States. OTOH, Montrealers do talk about McG as the place where binge drinking and alcohol-related problems are most likely to happen. Seems like cultural differences also include differences of perception.
    And though it doesn’t surprise me, your point about the lack of grade inflation is of direct interest to me as a teacher. There are various approaches to grades and what they might mean in terms of learning, performance, or even potential employment. The quest for “academic prestige” has often been associated with an approach to grades which correlates low class averages (or low proportions of grades in the A- to A+ range) with some sort of academic superiority. Still, some of the most prestigious programs have rather high proportions of very high grades and rather high class averages. These types of “grade inflation” are often linked to the concept that those who are “good enough” to enter a program at a prestigious university are “entitled” to high grades. (The sense of entitlement is something many teachers, especially younger ones, complain about.) The fact that you remark on this as a difference between McG and expensive universities in the U.S. leads me to think that grade inflation might be more relevant a concept for McG to deal with than it would be for Ivy League institutions. I certainly understand what the advantage might be for McG to have more “meaningful” grades. But it’s interesting a phenomenon nonetheless.

    Anyhoo… Thanks a lot for your comment!

  • Scott Arbeitman

    I finished my undergrad degree at McGill about 4 years ago. In my experience, McGill was an absolute steal compared to American universities with which it competes. With the weak US dollar these days, YMMV.

    McGill is often described as a “Canadian Ivy” but I believe this belittles it. Compared to my peers who studied in the top (expensive) American universities, I really believe:

    I learned more
    grades are meaningful, i.e. there is no grade inflation
    I interacted with highly diverse group of people
    I had less interaction with professors.
    Montreal is GREAT city, both for students and young professionals, but, yes, McGill students are concentrated in the ghetto.
    Drug and alcohol use in McGill may be higher than in US schoos (not sure) but there is a different cultural difference here, such as lenient drug and alcohol laws

    I would urge everyone to consider McGill and other top Canadian universities when deciding where to study.

  • enkerli

    Thanks a lot for the insight! We’ve had different experiences, it seems, and that makes it all the more interesting.

    One thing I did notice is that I’m having a much easier time interacting with 200 students in Montreal than with 30 students in the U.S. (MidWest and Northeast). Might have to do with my teaching style but colleagues have noticed similar differences on both sides of the border.

    What field are you in?

  • manish

    Yea, the fees are way off…I go to McGill…for one year it is
    ~15-18k Canadian (13-16k US) Fees and Tuition for International students
    ~6-7k (4-6k US) for out of province
    ~3k (2.5K US) Quebec residents
    Housing and meals are NOT included like most US state funded universities

    And most classes in Science, and many in Arts, Medicine, and some in business in the first two (or one for Quebec residents) years are usually ranging from 200-600 a class, with the average falling far to the higher number…pretty hard to interact with the Prof then no? Unless his office hour (usually one hour a week) coincides with your packed schedule

    Going to McGill and knowing people at UofT…the rankings aren’t so off

    But I wonder at the drinking and drugs rankings…from my observations at many US universities renknowned for this, McGill pretty much blows them out of the water

    Work hard play hard i guess

  • enkerli

    Oops! McGill’s non-resident tuition fees are much higher than what The Princeton Review stated. They used the Quebec permanent resident fees and labeled them “Out-of-State.” Talk about a silly mistake!

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