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:
Cost: $3,400 or $7,400 (out of province)
Pro: Automatic marks-based scholarships for returning students
Con: Dull, suburban Lennoxville
Professors at Bishop’s know their students’ names, which is key to the engaged learning environment campus is known for. Students describe a strong sense of school spirit, especially when it comes to supporting the Gaiters football team. A $30-million upgrade to Bishop’s sports complex slated for the fall of 2014 promises to strengthen this tradition. Bishop’s offers a strong English degree program with specialties from film studies to popular narrative. Campus has been described as having a “country club feel” which may be because Quebec’s oldest nine-hole golf course is right next door.
Hotshot prof: Matthew Peros is the Canada Research Chair in Climate and Environmental Change.
Notable alumnus: Norman Webster is the former editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail and The Gazette in Montreal.
Cost: $3,300 or $7,000 (out of province)
Pro: Lowest cost in province for Quebec students attending an English-speaking university
Con: Campus buildings blend into downtown
With 12,500 part-time students, Concordia can confidently claim to be a leader in flexible, accessible education. Concordia’s communications department has been recognized nationally and internationally. Students are known for their engaged, left-leaning politics and the undergraduate students' union voted to strike during the student protests that rocked Montreal in 2012. In the past, the university has lacked a distinct feel, but a $400-million redevelopment is making the neighbourhood much more lively. Concordia's Loyola campus (seven kilometres away by shuttle or dedicated bike lane) has more atmosphere.
Hotshot prof: Paul Shrivastava, business professor, was part of the management team that launched Hindustan Computers Ltd., now one of India’s largest computer companies.
Notable alumnus: E. Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her 1993 novel, The Shipping News.
Tradition of excellence
Cost: $2,700 or $6,400 (out of province)
Pro: Football team won Vanier Cup seven times in the past 15 years
Con: Ranks poorly on student-faculty interaction on NSSE
Laval has a history as rich as its city, the gorgeous, walled Quebec City. Laval has been an important hub of learning and research for 350 years. The alumni list of Laval’s law school reads like a Who’s Who of modern politics: Jean Chrétien, Brian Mulroney and Lucien Bouchard are graduates. As host of ArticNet, a network of 140 researchers from 30 Canadian universities, Laval has cemented a position at the centre of research about climate change and the Arctic.
Hotshot prof: Luc Bouthillier is working on a SSHRC-funded project about collaboration between aboriginal businesses and the forestry sector.
Notable alumnus: Pauline Marois is the Premier of Quebec.
Cost: $3,800 or $7,900 (out of province)
Pro: Diverse student body with 20 per cent from other countries
Con: Huge first-year classes
McGill is in the heart of downtown Montreal but its beautiful historic buildings lend campus a distinct atmosphere in the urban jungle. The university consistently ranks in the top three Canadian universities, scoring first place in the QS World University Rankings in 2013. This international reputation attracts the world’s brightest and McGill counts nine Nobel laureates among its faculty and alumni. However, NSSE results suggest that the university prioritizes research over undergraduate education and some classes have up to 600 students.
Hotshot prof: Thomas Chang invented the world’s first artificial cell as an undergraduate student at McGill in 1957.
Notable alumnus: Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, taught high school math before entering politics.
Students say: “One day, I sat down to watch the news, and they were talking about the crisis in Syria. The expert they used to comment was my 200 level political science professor. That was pretty cool.”
– Siobhan Brown, third-year political science
Université de Montréal
Cost: $3,000 or $5,900 (out of province)
Awards: Not available
Pro: World-class research opportunities
Con: Large undergraduate classes
With more than 60,000 students, Montréal is Canada’s second-largest university and is globally recognized for its research. Its business school, HEC, is highly-rated worldwide. Several of the school's undergrad programs are available in English, French, and even Spanish. As a large research-intensive university, Montréal struggles to provide engaging, supportive undergraduate education.
Hotshot prof: Dr. Gilles Brassard won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering in 2009, Canada’s most prestigious award for scientists.
Notable alumnus: Michaëlle Jean is the Special Envoy for Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the former Governor-General of Canada.
Concordia has the lowest cost in Quebec for students at an English university, rather than English-speaking students, as was said in a previous version of the article. As well, the undergraduate student union voted to participate in Montreal’s student strikes, but was not considered a hub of student protests, as was said in a previous version of the article.
The University of Montreal’s “pro” is world-class research opportunities, and its “con” is large undergraduate classes. Its affiliated business school, HEC, offers programs in three languages, not just French, as stated in a previous version of the article. This is a corrected and clarified version of the article.