A big part of the annual Maclean’s rankings are facts about a university’s research, awards and spending, and our reputational survey solicits the opinions of educators and business people. So prospective students could be forgiven for pulling back from this measured view and asking, “Yeah, but what do the students think?”
That’s exactly what Maclean’s set out to answer last year with a new online survey. We asked students directly about the issues that affect their daily life, such as living in residence, extracurricular activities and interaction with their professors and other staff, and invited them to weigh in on some highly charged topics like mental health and sexual assault. Last year we heard from 10,856 students at universities across the country; this year that number grew to 16,955. The feedback fuels our new student satisfaction indicator, which contributes 10 per cent of the weight to the overall rankings.
This year we added two new questions to the eight established in last year’s survey. In addition to asking about course instructors, student life staff and administrative staff, we added a question about academic advising staff, who help students navigate the university system by providing information on such things as program requirements, course selection and how to find academic supports.
The second new question asked about experiential learning. Increasingly, universities are offering students the opportunity to develop skills through experience-based learning. Whether it’s through a co-op program, service learning or study abroad, students benefit from broadening their horizons and gaining real-world experience.
For the second year in a row, Scholarships Canada helped distribute the survey to current university students. Last year we ensured that all schools had at least 100 responses. This year we doubled it at all but four of the 49 ranked universities.