We gathered information from professors, alumni and the universities themselves to describe some of the strengths and weaknesses of almost 60 universities in Canada. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) informed coverage of the type of undergraduate education. But, most importantly, we spoke to real-life students about the good and bad of their university experience.
See profiles of universities in other regions by clicking on the links:
Accessible and small
Sault Ste. Marie
Pro: Tight-knit community
Con: Limited course options
Although Algoma is Ontario’s newest university, it has fine-tuned its brand of hands-on learning for the past 50 years as a college of Laurentian University. One would assume the absence of graduate programs would allow the school to focus on creating an exceptional educational environment for its small student body, yet Algoma hovers around average on most indicators on NSSE. With a minimum entering grade of only 65 per cent, the university is very accessible, and stands to remain so as it aims to grow to 3,000 students by 2020.
Hotshot prof: Biologist Istvan Imre researches how to naturally repel lampreys, an invasive species of fish plaguing the Great Lakes.
Notable alumnus: Brad Jacobs and E.J. Harnden won the 2013 Canadian men’s championship in curling.
On the rise
Pro: Unique bachelor of sport management degree
Con: Lack of study spots on crowded campus
Brock will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year but that doesn’t mean it has settled into complacency. Infrastructure is continually expanding, such as the almost-finished $110-million Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex. Brock has the fifth biggest co-op program in the country, and even offers placements in history, liberal arts and dramatic arts. Campus is perched on top of the Niagara Escarpment, with views of downtown St. Catharines and Lake Ontario, but box-like concrete buildings and prominent parking lots take away from campus’ natural beauty.
Hotshot prof: Marilyn Cottrell, economics professor, was recognized by the Council of Ontario Universities for developing interactive online lectures on macroeconomics.
Notable alumnus: Tonya Verbeek won an Olympic silver medal for freestyle women’s wrestling in 2012.
Access to the capital
Awards: $17 million
Pro: Generous undergrad scholarships
Con: Duller campus life than the University of Ottawa
Carleton shines in programs specifically designed to serve the nation’s capital. The university is home to the oldest four-year journalism program in Canada and students in the public affairs and policy management program often score placements as government pages. The university has traditionally been considered stronger in the sciences, but Carleton’s interdisciplinary cognitive science degree is gaining renown and research in fields as diverse as microbial genomics and computer security have attracted prestigious research grants. Located to the south of downtown and surrounded by parks, campus can feel somewhat isolated.
Hotshot prof: History prof Shawn Graham has won multiple teaching awards for his classroom innovations, such as creating an interactive online archeology dig.
Notable alumnus: Angus Reid is the founder and former chief executive officer of the market research and polling company that now operates as Ipsos-Reid.
Students say: “Carleton’s campus is the perfect size for me. It’s a gorgeous campus with lots of greenery.”
– Francesca Jackman, second-year journalism
University of Guelph
Leading in the life sciences
Pro: Strong international development program
Con: Large first-year classes
The University of Guelph was established when the Ontario Veterinary College and the Ontario Agricultural College were amalgamated in 1964, and it continues to offer some of the country’s top programs in those fields. For instance, the biomedical science program allows students to simultaneously study foundations of animal and human health. Students are reputed to be politically active and left-leaning.
Hotshot prof: Playwright Judith Thompson, theatre professor, won the Governor-General’s award for drama twice and the Order of Canada.
Notable alumnus: John Kenneth Galbraith served as an adviser to U.S. democratic presidents for over 50 years.
Students say: “Many students are interested in experiential learning and global opportunities, but these programs and activities tend to have high costs associated with participation, making them financially inaccessible to the average student.”