University Rankings 1996: Winners
When Karrie Wolfe arrived at the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO from her home in Kitchener, Ont., in September, she brought more than just top marks, a prestigious National Scholarship and her winter clothes. "Like a lot of people, I arrived with preconceptions about the U of T," says Wolfe.
University Rankings 1996: Winners
University of Toronto
When Karrie Wolfe arrived at the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO from her home in Kitchener, Ont., in September, she brought more than just top marks, a prestigious National Scholarship and her winter clothes. "Like a lot of people, I arrived with preconceptions about the U of T," says Wolfe. "I thought I might get lost in the crowd." But just one month later, Wolfe had an entirely different take on life as one of 51,000 students at Canada's largest university. An ardent environmentalist, she had taken the first steps towards launching a composting program at St. Hilda's Residence. And from an academic home base at Trinity College - population 1,250 - she was immersing herself in "five great courses," including Identities, Ethnicity and Nationalism, in which she and only 17 fellow students share the attention of tenured professor Michael Levin. Says Wolfe, 19: "You soon realize there are many opportunities to make your mark, to feel like you belong, and to learn."
Like those who have gone before her, Wolfe is benefiting nicely from what president Robert Prichard calls the "dual citizenship" enjoyed by students at the University of Toronto, which for the third year in a row tops the list of Medical/Doctoral institutions in the Maclean's university ranking. "Our goal," says Prichard, "is to combine the intimacy and support of a liberal arts college with the opportunities that can be found at one of the finest public research institutions in the world."
And those opportunities are nothing short of awesome. The university boasts more than 300 undergraduate and 81 doctoral programs. Its 50 libraries house North America's fifth-largest university collection. The 3,000-strong faculty includes such world-renowned scholars as Nobel Prize-winning chemist John POLANYI and political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon.
But while the university's breadth is truly impressive, it is no surprise that students like Wolfe are able to carve their own niche within it. Each of nine main colleges offers a unique sense of community - as well as its own faculty, courses and academic specialties. And like Wolfe, many first-year arts and science students are given the chance to take one seminar course with no more than 20 students, taught by a tenured professor. When classes are out, 250 campus clubs, and the social and cultural offerings of Canada's largest city, provide ample diversions. "The University of Toronto," says Wolfe, "is a great place to go to school" - delivering just the kind of ringing endorsement Prichard loves to hear. "Our ability to build strength," says the president, "depends more than anything else on people's enthusiasm for the place." If that is true, the University of Toronto can count on an exciting future - and one that is built on solid foundations.
Mount Allison University
It is, in a way, an enviable problem. High quality and a first-class reputation have made applications soar in recent years at MOUNT ALLISON UNIVERSITY in tiny Sackville, N.B. But while the average entering grade has crept well into the mid-80s, many on campus have begun to fear that considerations other than good marks are determining who gets in: in an era of deep government cuts, Mount A, like many universities, has introduced hefty tuition increases - including a 20.6-per-cent hike in 1996. The solution of a school well poised to charge top dollar? An ambitious capital campaign, announced in September, aims to raise more than $20 million over five years - the lion's share earmarked for bursaries and scholarships. "Our goal is to get the academic elite, not the economic elite," says president Ian Newbould. "At Mount A, we want to be able to say, 'If you meet our exacting standards, we'll see to it that you can make your way financially.' "
The academic credentials of Mount Allison, top-ranked for the fifth year in the Primarily Undergraduate category, are beyond dispute. The university boasts more RHODES SCHOLARS per capita than any other in the British Commonwealth, and takes pride in offering a strong liberal arts and science curriculum. Along with exacting standards, the 157-year-old institution boasts a distinguished list of alumni that includes painters Mary and Christopher Pratt and Purdy Crawford, chairman of tobacco giant Imasco Ltd.
Not that Mount Allison is prepared to rest on its laurels. Although the university has weathered two strikes over four years, it has added faculty at a time when many universities have had to downsize their teaching staff. And despite some selected program cuts to retire the $4-million debt that Newbould inherited when he took over in 1991, Mount Allison spent $20 million over the past five years strengthening other areas, and wiring every residence room and office into the Internet. Declares Brad Proctor, 21, a fourth-year science student and president of the student council: "The tuition increase came as a shock - but at least we know we are getting value for our money."
Besides venerable traditions and top-of-the-line technology, what else do Mount Allison's 2,250 students get for the tuition fee of $3,665? Start with the close-knit feel of campus life, and low student-to-professor ratios. There is also surprising diversity: a new state-of-the-art multimedia teaching centre, the 100-year-old Owens Art Gallery and a champion rugby squad. Every Friday night, SUSHI (the Sackville Underground Society of Housebroken Improvisers), a comedy and improv group performs. "Mount A is a microcosm of society," explains Megan Venner, 21, a fourth-year political studies student, who is also news editor of The Argosy student newspaper, and host of a weekly jazz radio show. "It is extremely varied and extremely interesting." At Mount Allison, remaining grounded in the past while embracing the future has made for a university where the best and the brightest feel right at home.
Maclean's November 25, 1996
Simon Fraser University
Perched on a mountaintop, a university could easily become out of touch with the world beyond its doors. But with its campus at the summit of Burnaby Mountain, just 13 km east of downtown Vancouver, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY works hard to stay close to its community. "It is important," says president John Stubbs, "to invite the public in." And as Simon Fraser has proven repeatedly throughout its 33-year history, it is important to reach out to the world as well. The institution that Maclean's ranks No. 1 among Comprehensive universities in 1996 has long distinguished itself as a leader in long-distance and co-operative learning. Last summer, it took that outward-looking philosophy an important step further, when it became the headquarters for a national research network investigating the potential of high-tech, on-line communication systems for transforming the world of teaching and learning. The new TeleLearning Research Network, whose projects include Virtual University, is an ambitious experiment joining 750 students and 130 professors at 12 test sites. Boasts Network leader Linda Harasim: "We are looking at new ways of learning that correspond to the 21st century - new models that build on teamwork and collaboration and knowledge-building."
Finding creative solutions to the challenges presented by an ever-evolving world is clearly one of Simon Fraser's greatest strengths. The university pioneered a 12-month, three-semester calendar to accommodate students whose work schedules conflict with more traditional timetables. In 1989, Simon Fraser opened the Harbour Centre, a satellite campus in downtown Vancouver, in what has become a highly successful attempt to reach inhabitants of the city's office towers. And while Virtual University is testing the power of cutting-edge, Web-based technologies, Simon Fraser's well-established distance-learning program already uses telephone lines, home computers and television to teach 7,000 students - both on campus and across British Columbia.
Under Stubbs, now in his fourth year as president, Simon Fraser has continued to embrace that outward-looking tradition. Last fall, the university linked with partners in private industry to launch Canada's only master's program in publishing. Meanwhile, officials inaugurated a three-year pilot program designed for working professionals who had abandoned their formal education before completing a diploma or degree. Thirty-four employees from B.C. Hydro and CP RAIL are now attending classes four days each month.
And over the next three years, the university is devoting $750,000 to expanding what is already one of the country's largest co-operative studies programs, in which students combine traditional classroom learning with on-the-job training. By 1999, Simon Fraser aims to have 3,000 students taking co-op degrees, in everything from engineering to English literature - a 50-per-cent increase over current levels. Says Stubbs: "If there is a word that I would like to think defines us, it is 'responsive.' " Building on that philosophy, Simon Fraser has achieved an academic prominence that matches its impressive physical setting.