Monday, November 28, 2005

Political Time North of the Border

Today a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons dissolved the 38th Parliament in Canada. This will now kick off one of the longest election campaigns in the history of the country: 56 days. That doesn't leave much time for mudslinging, though we Canadians can be quite resourceful.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Canadian University Rankings

Many American's are familiar with the US News & World Report rankings of colleges and universities in the United States. Canada has a rough equivalent: the annual Maclean's ranking of Canadian universities.

(In Canada, "colleges" is a term used only to refer to community colleges and technical schools, which don't grant any kind of "degrees," not even an Associates. So in Canada, a high school senior going to the University of Toronto would say, "In the fall I'm going to university" [and yes, without the definitive article]. This always makes it a bit awkward when I'm back home and folks learn that I teach at Calvin College--which they tend to think of as some kind of community college.)

One significant difference is that the Maclean's ranking is pretty much comprehensive: except for a few small "private" universities (of which there are very few in Canada), this ranking evaluate every university in Canada under three categories: Medical Doctoral (universities with PhD programs, law schools, and med schools), Comprehensive (universities with doctoral programs but not med schools), and primarily undergraduate institutions.

This year McGill and the University of Toronto tied for top spot in what we might call "Canada's Ivy League" (we like to refer to Harvard as the McGill of the United States! ;-) Both are world-class institutions. In the comprehensive category, the University of Waterloo took top honors (I completed my undergraduate degree there). And in the primarily undergraduate category, it was mainly east coast or "Atlantic province" universities at the top, including St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allision (where I always dreamed of playing football when I grew up), and Acadia.

I sometimes find myself a bit homesick for the environs of Canadian universities, which I've always felt was quite different from the American scene (being in England last year reinforced some of that). The Maclean's ranking also includes some good articles exploring the unique challenges of Canadian higher education and research as it tries to resist the brain drain of American universities. Good reading.