A university report does good

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The University of Calgary ended up near the bottom in another university ranking survey--but not in the publication you would think.

The Globe and Mail, launched a 16-page supplement where students, not numbers, ranked universities. A scholarship website distributed 120,000 e-mail surveys that apparently demographically and geographically represented the country.

Immediately when you hear university rankings, you can't help but think Maclean's. They've effectively cornered the post-secondary institution ranking market, and over the years, Maclean's caused higher-ranked universities to boast and lower-ranked universities, including U of C, to whine.

But this is a different survey. Students, and not the universities, were consulted; they were allowed to complain about issues--something you can't measure by numbers. And there is a wonderful lack of the copious stats Maclean's throws at readers. Instead, there are articles that talk about issues that never receive much play in the media.

While there are also articles praising universities like Queen's, there are articles on rising tuition, research versus teaching, the effects of overcrowded classrooms, students' experiences at the university, and most importantly, their education. This is important because the Maclean's rankings are generally read by those trying to pick a university. This supplement is in the Globe and Mail, a newspaper widely read by those who often don't think of the problems facing post-secondary education, or even universities at all.

But there is a flaw in the Globe and Mail's methodology. The amount of students who responded ranged between 250 to 1,140, depending on the university. Now they aren't specific which universities only had 250 responses, but if the U of C, which has 25,000 students, was rated on only 250 surveys, it only represents one per cent of the student population--hardly good surveying techniques.

However, if this is my only major complaint about this survey, the Globe and Mail has something worthwhile in its hands. While I might protest Maclean's rankings of U of C, it's the students who are complaining about U of C in the Globe and Mail. That might be something the university can't ignore.