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Donna S. Trudy




Abstract (Donna)

Attempting to Analyse the Efficacy of the Maclean’s University Rankings

The university rankings published by Maclean’s Magazine every November have the potential of altering decisions made by students, faculty and staff and administration of the higher education institutions in Canada. While this process has occurred for over twelve years there remains a paucity of detailed investigation as to the efficacy of Maclean’s instrument. It is our intention to present an outline and justification of our comprehensive research plan. A detailed discussion of the statistical analysis and results of the Maclean’s University Rankings will follow.


In 1991, Maclean’s Magazine set out to “educate” the nation’s youth on the best choice of post-secondary education institutions in Canada. The publishing of the Maclean’s Rankings (MR) brought an onslaught of criticism from the institutions being evaluated and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. The process of collecting data, the methodology and the final product came under scrutiny, resulting in some universities initially refusing to participate in the process. However, a decade later, the MR have become an expected step in the process of deciding on a “best institution” for future first year students. The MR have become so popular that they publish their findings not only in the November issue of Maclean’s Magazine but also in a special edition titled The Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities in February. While the ranking process still receives criticism from researchers such as Page (1995, 1996, 1998, 1999) and many university administrations, it continues to flourish. A major concern is the responsibility that Maclean’s has taken on as the only media in Canada to conduct such an extensive evaluation in Canada. There is a paucity of data and analysis checking and yet the MR continue to have a very loud voice in future students’ decision making process. An independent audit of the MR is imperative in order to determine if they are being responsible to the public. Moreover, it is essential to gain an understanding of the effects that this process is having on the university administration, faculty and students involved.

The analysis of the Maclean’s phenomenon must encompass a multifaceted approach. Clearly, many important and complicated aspects exist in such a project. These include, but are not limited to, the analysis of the MR and the effects of the rankings on students, faculty, staff and administration of the institutions involved. The beginning stages of this study on the efficacy of the MR must first involve a comprehensive statistical analysis of all of the ranking data as published by Maclean’s. This small, but necessary, portion of the overall research plan includes examining the change in ranking methodology over the years, the statistical sampling techniques used by Maclean’s, and if their rankings are consistent and unbiased. This information is then used to formulate a position statement on whether the year to year changes in the ranking criteria truly reflects changing trends in higher education.

The outline of the remaining research program, which will also be discussed, is intended to clarify the controversial subject of university rankings. First and foremost, it is extremely important that it is understood how reliable the rankings are and how they affect future students decision-making process. It is often assumed that most mass media productions are reliable sources of information. However, ranking universities against one another is a subjective process and one source may not be able to capture all issues that students consider important in their education experience. Secondly, university rankings completed by media companies may have a profound effect on the operation of the universities being ranked. Any decisions made by faculty, staff and administration based on rankings may not be prudent as the efficacy of such systems has not been fully analysed as of yet. The accountability of both the media company involved and the response of each university may be faulty. It is important that constructs such as university rankings be scrutinized to ensure a viable, responsible and positive experience for all those choosing to interact within the higher education system.


Page, S. (1995). Rankings of Canadian Universities: Pitfall in Interpretation. The Canadian Journal of   Higher Education, 25(2), 17-28.

Page, S. (1996). Rankings of Canadian Universities, 1995: More Problems in    Interpretation. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 26(2), 47-58.

Page, S. (1998). Rankings of Canadian Universities, 1997: Statistical Contrivance Versus Help to Students. Canadian Journal of Education, 23(4), 452-457.

Page, S. (1999). Rankings of Canadian Universities and Help to Students. Guidance &  Counselling, 14(3), 11-13.


Abstract (Trudy)

Regarding my research, I find I am clear about the dance yet not about who the dancers will be. I’m also as yet unclear about who might lead this dance, although I have a hunch. In this presentation, I ask for your counsel. Don’t worry, for I intend to prepare you well. 

I want to understand, both from the perspective of those in old age and those in midlife, what it means to be old. I want those who have arrived ? the elders ? to teach those of us who are not yet there. I want to work collaboratively to design a map, perhaps a Lonely Planet guide to the territory of aging.

I have been working on a pilot study with a group of elders to explore the elder research colleague role and the working relationship between researcher and elder research colleague. In our research we have begun to characterize the transition from midlife to old age. 

In this presentation I will outline my research journey with elders thus far. I will sketch out our ‘dance’ for you and give you my thoughts to this point about how best to proceed. I will enable you to take a perspective that may be a new one for you and from that perspective I will draw fresh insight.