Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,
November is the month of the year when Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail and Research Infosource release their various university rankings. As promised in my last blog posting, I would like to comment this year’s results.
First, a little context: these rankings are far from perfect.
The methodologies used can be inconsistent and the results can be debatable. So much so that some people completely ignore what these surveys and rankings say about their institutions.
Although I acknowledge the imperfections, I still prefer to leverage the information to inform authentic internal conversations with students, faculty and staff on our strengths, the opportunities ahead, what we aspire to be and the results we want to achieve together.
I encourage you to review the information contained in these rankings in context, looking at the fulsome perspectives offered by all the rankings and tools combined, to consider multi-year trends (since there can be positive and negative “blips” in any given year), and where possible, to compare with universities with similar circumstances.
- Laurentian’s position in Maclean’s ranking of primarily undergraduate universities went up 4 places this year, the highest increase of any Canadian university this year. This improvement is attributable to three factors: 1) relative to other universities, our operating budget per student has increased, 2) our proportion of students winning national awards has increased and, 3) the proportion of our operating budget allocated to bursaries and scholarships has increased.
- Maclean’s highlights this year three Canadian universities “on the radar”, and Laurentian is one of them.
- Maclean’s university rankings edition reveals that Laurentian has the second highest operating budget per student in the country, next only to Queen’s, and that Laurentian’s tuition fees and compulsory ancillary fees are the lowest among Ontario universities.
- On Research Infosource’s annual ranking, Laurentian went up one place to #28 overall in Canada for total sponsored research income. Our total of $21.983 million was a 10.1% increase over the previous year and a 41.7% increase over two years. Total sponsored research income per full-time faculty member increased last year by 18% to $51,900, which is a 44.6% increase over two years.
- Laurentian did not take part in the 2009 NSSE survey as we have decided, like many universities, to participate every two years.
- Overall student satisfaction as measured by the Globe and Mail went down unfortunately one mark (from B to B-). Among the Canadian universities of similar size, no university saw an increase in overall student satisfaction, two universities stayed at the same level as last year, 13 went one down one rank and two went down two ranks.
- Laurentian gets “A”s from students for class size, the sense of personal safety and security, the availability of faculty to students outside of class, the level of interaction with faculty and physical fitness/sports/recreational facilities. Laurentian gets “D”s for food services and the availability and affordability of off-campus housing. The report highlights Laurentian’s programs in Outdoor Adventure Leadership, Forensic Science and Midwifery. You can review the aggregate results of all universities on 17 broad categories here, as well as Laurentian’s specific results per field of study on 37 indicators here compared with the average of Canada’s similar-sized universities.
One of my performance goals set by the Board is to continue improving student satisfaction relative to other universities. In August, we took time during a full-day meeting of the 35 member University Leadership Group to walk through the indicators of the Globe and Mail student satisfaction survey to get a better understanding of where do we well and where we could do better, identify the indicators where there was already priority attention planned for the coming year and which other colleagues were also planning to focus on the same indicator in the coming year. I have encouraged the deans and directors to ask their respective faculty, staff and students:
1) What do we know that students want on a given indicator? (If we don’t know, how are we going to find out?)
2) What are the effective practices in other postsecondary institutions which either have outstanding results year after year on a given indicator or have improved significantly and steadily over time? (Keeping in mind in that some areas, we are the university that others look up to).
3) What are we going to do about it?
4) How are we going to make sure that students know that we have done something about it?
Some examples of recent improvements aimed at enhancing student satisfaction include the expansion of the role of the First Year Experience Office to become a broader Student Success Office, the organization of 10 orientation sessions during the summer for first year students, the optimization of the timetable to level out the course offerings throughout the week to increase the course selection to students, the introduction of the new on-line learning management system, and the approval of a $20 million new residence to accommodate 236 more students on the Sudbury campus starting in 2012.
Can we do better? Absolutely, and we will. The Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Dr Robert Kerr, and the Associate Vice-President, Student Affairs, Denis Mayer, have already planned regular discussions with student associations to continue working towards an enhanced student experience. Our future Vice-President, Administration, Carol McAulay (herself a former president of the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association and former treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Students) will join them upon her arrival on February 14th.
As usual, I welcome comments and questions on the topics discussed in my blog postings, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org I would particularly welcome your suggestions on specific ways by which the University could improve student satisfaction.