Maclean's 2011 University Rankings -

Maclean’s 2011 University Rankings

McGill, Simon Fraser and Mount Allison on top again in 2011


For the seventh year in a row, McGill University is ranked first in the Medical Doctoral category in the Maclean’s University Rankings, once again beating one-time king, the University of Toronto. Toronto, second again this year, has placed first in the category 12 times over the past 21 years. In third is the University of British Columbia. Queen’s is fourth. The University of Alberta is fifth.

So what’s given McGill such an edge? For one thing, McGill’s students win more national awards than Toronto’s. Another big factor is its student-faculty ratio. Toronto places dead last in the category (15), while McGill is fifth. On top of that, McGill dedicates more of its budget to scholarships and bursaries than any other school in the category. Toronto’s big advantage is its library collections—U of T trounces McGill in all four library-related categories. In the annual reputational survey, McGill has a slight edge too, achieving first place once again. But Toronto is catching up, having improved two positions since last year, from fourth to second. Two other Medical Doctoral universities improved by two spots on the reputational survey: Dalhousie University and the University of Sherbrooke.

In the Comprehensive Category, Simon Fraser University (1), the University of Victoria (2), the University of Waterloo (3), the University of Guelph (4), and Memorial University (5) all maintain their top-five positions. The biggest news in this category is that Brock University, Wilfrid Laurier University and Ryerson University all make their debuts, albeit in the bottom half. The three schools were moved into the Comprehensive category this year after recognizing both growth in their populations and increased graduate school offerings. Laurier has the highest debut—eleventh—on the strength of its reputation (7), faculty awards (5) and medical/science grants (4). In the reputational survey, Waterloo placed first among Comprehensive schools—as it does most years—while Simon Fraser, Guelph, Victoria and Ryerson rounded-out the top five.

In the Primarily Undergraduate category, the University of Prince Edward Island showed the biggest change, thanks in part to a strong showing in student awards, vaulting past Trent, St. Francis Xavier and Bishop’s to tie for fourth place with Lethbridge. It is bested only by Mount Allison University, Acadia University and the University of Northern British Columbia, which came first, second and third, respectively, in 2011. Mount A’s achievement is particularly impressive: it’s the fifteenth time that the Sackville, N.B. school has taken the top honour—a record number of wins. The University of Moncton also deserves commendation. Moncton moved up to fifteenth position, with the strongest showing on student/faculty ratio and an improved score on the reputational survey.

Maclean’s considers 14 numerical indicators of the quality of students, faculty, libraries and finances to rank 49 universities. Each is placed in one of three categories to recognize differences in levels of research funding, offerings, and the range of graduate programs. This year, three schools (Ryerson, Laurier and Brock) were moved into the Comprehensive category. For our complete 21st annual rankings, plus Canada’s best higher education journalism, pick up your copy of the 2011 Maclean’s University Rankings issue on newsstands Oct. 27. Here are the results:

Medical Doctoral universities offer a broad range of Ph.D. programs and have medical schools.

2011 Ranking School Last Year
1 McGill (1)
2 Toronto (2)
3 UBC (3)
4 Queen’s (5)
5 Alberta (4)
6* Dalhousie (7)
6* McMaster (6)
8 Calgary (8)
9 Western (9)
10* Ottawa (11)
10* Saskatchewan (10)
12* Laval (12)
12* Montréal (13)
14 Sherbrooke (14)
15 Manitoba (15)

* Indicates a tie

Comprehensive universities have a significant degree of research activity and a wide range of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including professional degrees.

2011 Ranking School Last Year
1 Simon Fraser (1)
2 Victoria (2)
3 Waterloo (3)
4 Guelph (4)
5 Memorial (5)
6 New Brunswick (6)
7 Carleton (7*)
8 Windsor (7*)
9 York (9*)
10 Regina (9*)
11 Wilfrid Laurier (N/A)
12 Concordia (11)
13* UQAM (12)
13* Ryerson (N/A)
15 Brock (N/A)

* Indicates a tie

Primarily Undergraduate universities are largely focused on undergraduate education with relatively fewer graduate programs and graduate students.

2011 Ranking School Last Year
1 Mount Allison (1)
2 Acadia (2)
3 UNBC (3)
4* Lethbridge (4)
4* UPEI (8*)
6 St. Francis Xavier (7)
7 Trent (6)
8 Bishop’s (8*)
9 Saint Mary’s (11)
10 Winnipeg (10)
11* Lakehead (12)
11* Laurentian (14*)
11* UOIT (13)
14 St. Thomas (16)
15* Brandon (17*)
15* Moncton (20)
17 Mount Saint Vincent (19)
18 Cape Breton (21)
19 Nipissing (22)

* Indicates a tie

Want to know more about how we rank? Read Measuring excellence.


Maclean’s 2011 University Rankings

  1. Interesting, I remember the University of Guelph being number 1 and McMaster being higher up a while back.
    Hopefully, they can work their way back up.

  2. @Kevin McMaster has to compete with some schools that get an incredibly large amount of research investment.

    Guelph still receives the most research investment among the comprehensive Universities.

  3. FINALLY! Your rankings make more sense! Moving Laurier to the COMPREHENSIVE category is a big step in increasing your survey credibility. Additionally moving Ryerson and Brock to a different category shows your interest in developing a better, revamped model and process.

  4. A bit too much emphasis on awards won by students, this is based on individuals and not a testament of the Universities ability to provide good education, because not every student goes on to do research etc.

  5. Sad irony that Mount Allison’s top ranking comes on the very same day demolition began on the university’s historic war Memorial Library. Outraged alum & community members would certainly not be ranking the university’s admin #1. Hope a terrible decision doesn’t end up as a long term detriment to the outstanding work done by MTA faculty & staff.

    • Given that there is nothing left in that building of consequence I doubt it will affect the school. Last I recall the only actual school related occurrences in that building are Windsor Theater though even they might have moved out by now. Otherwise everything else has been moved to the McCain building which is much nicer.

      • I agree that the McCain building is much nicer, but the Memorial Library has a lot of historic meaning and people are very attached to it. There have been a few old buildings torn down in recent years and it upsets people. The campus becomes a very special place to alumni. I think a lot of graduates will agree that they spent the best years of their life at Mount A. When buildings are torn down, it is like a part of your memories are gone as well. I studied music at Mount A. If I was to return in, say 20 years, and the conservatory had been torn down and replaced it would definitely be upsetting. I spent so much time in that building during my degree and it is where I made the most amazing friends anyone could ever have. It is almost like going back to your childhood home or other building with special meaning. You just get a warm fuzzy feeling. When a building that does that to you is torn down, you are naturally going to be upset.

  6. Happy to see UNBC doing well AGAIN this year. Best in the West! Kudos to Mt. Allison and Acadia for always setting the bar high.

  7. This is of course, something of a joke. To separate the Medical/Doctoral from the Comprehensive is faulty. None of the three or four serious world rankings do anything like this at all. For example, there is no reason why SFU and UVic should be be put in some comparison with, say, Calgary or Ottawa. With the Macleans ranking, we have no idea at all how they stack up; and since the VAST MAJORITY of students are NOT applying based on the Medical/Doctoral category, what Macleans does is not helpful at all. If you were a student who wants to do a BA, and you are thinking of choosing between, say, Waterloo and Sask, how would you have figure out which is the best university?

    The other thing that is missing is that we have not much context in the world scene, where McGill and Toronto are so obviously superior. The one good thing about Canada is that we have many good 2nd tier universities. We cannot compete with the Ivies and other private US places like Chicago. Different world altogether (which is why the smartest profs and students end up there).

    • Am not clear if you mean that McGill & U of T cannot compete with the Ivies, Chicago, etc. As a CDN who’s lived in the US for a long time, I am amazed at how often educated Americans refer to McGill as the Harvard of Canada and U of T is widely recognized for its excellence among American academics. Also, informed Americans recognize Waterloo as a more circumscribed CDN MIT & grtly admire its integration of work experience into the overall program. Western is known in the US for its business school. Otherwise, as a longterm participant in the American academic scene, the rest of the CDN universities seem virtually unknown, except perhaps for UBC, and small colleges like Mt Allison are totally unknown.


    • Can George Brown college do anything about people who type solely in all caps?

  9. @ Ronda Vicera – The verdict is out and there is nothing you can do about it. I suppose you would also call the shipbuilding contract to be a joke ? All those spots are well deserved !

  10. This comment was deleted.

    • Unfortunately QS puts too much emphasis on academic ranking(based on surveys)

      both times and qs …more so on the latter mentioned lack detailed info on Canadian universities.
      I would say ARWU world is the most factual in terms of ranking many of the top institution such as Oxford also agree.
      1 University of Toronto
      2 University of British Columbia
      3 McGill University
      4 McMaster University
      5-6 University of Alberta
      5-6 University of Montreal
      7-8 The University of Calgary
      7-8 University of Waterloo
      9-18 University of Guelph
      9-18 Dalhousie University
      9-18 Queen’s University
      9-18 Simon Fraser University
      9-18 The University of Western Ontario

    • Toronto was ranked 19th not 20th in THES.

      • Wonderful news for Mount Allison yet again. Well deserved! Recently I attended the Open House for 2012 students and the warm fuzzy feeling is still there. There is something magical about the place that never leaves you. That feeling of family and scholarly success go hand in hand. I’ve attended many universities since, and nothing compares to my heartwarming devotion to the place. As for buildings being replaced….it’s wonderful! Growth and change are inevitable and necessary and I say….onward!

  11. Great to see Simon Fraser on top once again. It has an incredibly rigorous academic culture and a strong reputation nationally and increasingly internationally.

  12. Hurrah Acadia! :)

    • hurrah hurrah…….. acadia!!!!

  13. With the current bitter labour dispute now going on to the 9th week, I can’t believe that McGill will still continue to be first. From what I hear and read the atmosphere there is very tense between upper management, staff and students and it must be very difficult to function normally.

    • Instead of listening to what you hear, why not visit McGill and see what is really going on. Except for the student government kids and some Arts student malcontents, the student body has little sympathy for the strikers.

    • That’s actually quite the laughable comment. The vast majority of students at McGill, even arts students, could care less about the strike. True there are few that have chosen to support them, but just as many who voice their opposition to them, and who are very much “pissed off” with the MUNACA strikers.

      But at the end of the day, the strike barely affects the life of the average student who are used to having to walk past a few people to get to their intended destination.

  14. Dear Pluto,

    It is not clear what a shipbuilding contract has do do with university ranking. Please explain, thanks.

  15. @ R. Vicera – Just because THE and QS are the two most well known university rankings globally and they complete their rankings in a certain way does not mean their methodology is the most valid or reliable. It is certainly helpful to see a list of all schools ranked 1 through whatever under one standard category. But in my opinion, which assumingly is supported by mcleans, a ranking that doesnt differentiate schools among key indicators such as size, program offering etc. does not best attempt to provide a valid and reliable ranking. There’s a reason THE has begun indicating the proportional size of each of their ranked schools. Differently from mcleans, however, they’ve forced the reader to interpret the significance of those differentiations.

  16. In terms of both research achievements and international reputation, I think University of Toronto is definitely No.1 in Canada.

    • You are apparently a University of Toronto student/alum.

    • I assume that you are a University of Toronto graduate.

    • What a joke! McGill consistently ranks higher than the University of Toronto in every single university ranking from the Maclean’s ranking (as mentioned in the article), to the Times Higher and QS World Rankings.

      The fact that McGill has more international repute is just that, a fact.

  17. Congratulations on creating criteria and comparisons to sell more of your magazines. Well done!! I am sure this will be the best selling issue again this year.
    Have you ever used the same criteria for comparison twice?
    I think not, because rankings wouldn’t change from year to year.
    Congratulations on the 21st version of your comparisons. We look forward to the tweaks next year that will create a brand new version all over again.
    Take it with a grain of salt.

    • If you were to look carefully, you’d see that there is not much in the way of differences from year to year. McGill has placed first for over half a decade now, with U of T, Queens and UBC consistently following suit with minor changes in placing.

  18. Perhaps if the U of Manitoba wasn’t giving out PhD’s like candy (not requiring exams, etc) their ranking would have been better!

  19. I think Macleans is no longer relevant for the doctoral category where promimenent internatinoal rankings are more legit. I think that the ranking


    is the right one with Mcgill being strong in the health and medical area.

  20. In response to Bob– Although most of the world would disagree with you. Spend some time outside of Canada and you’ll see your suggested rankings don’t hold up.

    • It is okay Mcgill fanboy, everyone in academia knows your school is on the decline.

      • Ontarians have been saying that McGill has been on the decline fpr forty years. Odd that it still ranks so highly.

  21. To Marc–I would disagree with what you say. The QS and THE now take into account the most important features about universities. Size in NOT the indicator. Places like Princeton, Yale, and Harvard–which sore miles above, say, Alberta–are tiny by comparison. Yale has about 12k students; Princeton has less than 10k students; Harvard has about 20k. Alberta has 38k students, about the same number of as Yale, Harvard, and Princeton TOGETHER.

    Now, how many noble prizes are associated with these universities?
    Harvard, about 40 (though by affiliation/association, about 100)
    Yale, about 50
    Princeton, about 35

    The big bottom line is how good are the profs, how good is the research, how good are the research facilities, and how good are the students. Everything else is fluff.

  22. I find it very interesting how they still do these studies when it’s quite apparent that many schools have incredibly varying levels of education depending on the program.

  23. Makes me proud as a Mount A grad to see Mount A number 1 again. The university has done a great job keep the school focused on its core strength – a small diverse undergraduate school that attracts future leaders. I am so happy what they did the the old Trueman House transforming into the new McCain Student Centre. Some people aren’t happy with the newest project, because they don’t want the old pub building and Golden A Cafe torn down – it hasn’t been called the Memorial Library since the Ralph Pickard Bell Library was built in the 70’s – give me a break.

  24. Impressed to see that Macleans has moved Ryerson from the primarily undergraduate category to the Comprehensive category. Finally someone has paid attention to the “Down Town” Toronto University.

  25. The University of Manitoba is deservedly last again, especially after all the revelations about an unearned PhD degree.

  26. Good point about the variability between programs! In most cases it’s hard to come up with a summary score for a conglomerate of more-or-less independent entities (vying for the same resources!). Perhaps the most important criterion is how autonomous these entities are permitted to be; dare we call it Academic Freedom?

    Regardless of one’s feelings towards the McGill strikers, labour relations are abysmal pretty much across the board – from students (TAs, Research Assistants) to managers. Several profs have decried the smugness and arrogance of the administration. There is more talk of community as the members of that community are increasingly ignored – students, staff and researchers are but pawns in the quest for better numbers to show the rating agencies. There is more talk of collegiality as more control is unilaterally imposed from above (governance by fiat from those with BMWs?). Autonomy, enthusiasm and engagement amongst the non-academics have been stifled, perhaps to obviate the risk of missteps that might tarnish a carefully burnished reputation.

    There is still a spark at McGill, there is still a real community, and there are still those who hope to see that spark burst into flame once again. Indeed it might, and we’ll probably owe it to the principle of tenure.

  27. Ranking is Ranking, it doesn’t mean anything, it is not the Bible. I am from Concordia University, if you want to judge a thing is bad or good, you must go there in person, taste it in person, put your eyes on it, feel it without any prejudice.

  28. @Vicera – If you have to ask that question, you shouldn’t be posting here.

    Maclean’s has done a great job with these rankings. A lot of the popular universities topping the charts on some other rankings are just pumping out graduates. Maclean’s has considered quality over quantity.

  29. I am happy with the new improvements, and the transformation of the University of Prince Edward Island, AVC Atlantic Vetenary college, as a government research institute. The 2011 Macleans University ranking fits us well, we can only be satisfied and grow more to be number 1. Atlantic Maritime region, Canada.

    AVC is still number 1 in Canada.

    (Government research Funding)

    -Island State, Population, Economic growth and development, sustainabilty and transparency as some of the agendas of all Islanders.

  30. pluto says:
    October 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm
    @Vicera – If you have to ask that question, you shouldn’t be posting here.Maclean’s has done a great job with these rankings. A lot of the popular universities topping the charts on some other rankings are just pumping out graduates. Maclean’s has considered quality over quantity.

    Dear Pluto: What is your evidence that the “popular” universities are pumping out graduates? Do you think there is a difference between between “popular” and excellent? (And I still don’t get the shipbuilding connection.)

  31. With regards to reputation, Macleans stated that there was only a 7% return rate on the surveys distributed. As anyone who does any research can tell you, that’s an incredibly low rate of return, making the results EXTREMELY biased. It’s sad that so many people place so much emphasis on these rankings, when the methodology doesn’t allow for the results to be reliable in any way, shape or form.

  32. Well I’m glad Manitoba made it on there a few times. I’ll have to pick up a copy to check out all the details… Do they still rank the dorms?

  33. Back in 90s and into 00s, I believe not too many Canadians put weight on University rankings and the selection was based on
    various factors. For me, I decided to attend Western over other
    universities such as Queens, U of T and Wilfrid Laurier. I hope that biased rankings of magazines, which probably started as another method to increase subscribers, does not affect potential

  34. Glad to see that Brock has made the list.

    I’ve visited many other campuses in Canada (Ontario and Montreal) and the main difference I notice is the size. Brock is a lot smaller than other universities, but it’s growing. Because of the smaller size and the smaller city, there’s not always something going on or maybe some specific group doesn’t exist. The benefit at Brock is the opportunity to start something. Every year I’ve started or joined some new group or club or project. Some work, others don’t. But at larger schools I think it would be a lot more difficult to be so involved or to make an impact so easily. At Brock, a lot of the faculty and students in my department know me, and I’m just an undergrad.

    That said, I don’t think this list should be solely used by any potential students as a basis for their decisions. There are many other factors involved that will decide if you enjoy a school or not. As an international student, I took a gamble going to Brock because I visited it once before applying and enjoyed the campus. I don’t regret my decision, but I’m sure I wouldn’t regret my decision if I had gone to any other school. The experience is really what you make out of it.

  35. I am proud to have Mount Allison represented as #1 undergraduate school for many years. After 25 years, I returned this past Thanksgiving and found it to be just as welcoming now as it was then. Mt. A. knows it’s strengths and continues to provide an outstanding educational experience for all who attend. The renovations are amazing and appropriate; the old Truman looks awesome as the new student centre. They have “updated” all the right places for future generations to enjoy.

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