Canada’s education ranked third globally

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Students often look to the Maclean’s Magazine rankings, released annually as a barometer for the quality of an institution’s education and as a way to navigate the confusion of post-secondary school selection.

Now, with a new ranking released by Universitas 21 (U21), it is possible to see how Canada as a whole compares to other countries internationally on the basis of its higher-education systems.

Canada demonstrated impressive results in the evaluation, ranking third overall with a score of 82.8 behind Sweden, with 83.6, and the United States in first place with 100.

Helen Pennant, the special advisor to the president and executive director: international for the University of British Columbia, and one of two Canadian representatives to U21, acknowledged the benefits of the research-intensive ranking.

“Being a member of an international network like U21 is all about finding out what other universities are doing, and how they relate to their national systems, exchanging best practices,” she said.

“So having any information which sort of makes sense of that data is useful.”
Countries were evaluated based on resources and output, in which Canada ranked highly, as well as connectivity and environment, where it was positioned considerably lower.

These four categories encompass twenty different measures, including number of international students, investments made by the government and private sector and diversity of opportunities available among other qualifications.
There has been some criticism towards the adequacy of the categories used to determine the rankings.

Things such as tuition costs and class sizes, currently highly contentious issues in Canada, were not used as a measure of a country’s quality of education.
According to Pennant, this is simply an unavoidable reality for any research project. “Any survey is incomplete, isn’t it?” she considered.

“The researchers have obviously tried to get measures which can be applied across the board in the broadest sense.”

Zachary Dayler, the national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) believes that rankings in general must be looked at with a critical eye.

“For me, the rankings are kind of a false perception adding to what is incredibly difficult for young people to navigate,” Dayler argued.

“There’s value to them, but… if people don’t know how to interpret them or don’t know what’s included in a specific metric, it’s not doing anything for those it needs to do something for.”

Pennant felt that the comparison of nations, rather than particular universities, provided a unique perspective through which to evaluate post-secondary education.

“I think it’s quite helpful for students who are considering going abroad for studying or research,” she countered. “Nobody should rely on just one ranking to make a decision.”

While the results may be an eye-opener for governments on the type of education systems they are creating, the ranking does have the potential to be one of many tools utilized by students when determining which school, or which country, is best-suited to host their journey through higher education.

“At the end of the day, the people that matter in post-secondary education are students,” Dayler concluded. “Those are the people that need to benefit from it, those are the people that are making the investment, and they need to get that return on their investment.”

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