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:
Mount Allison University
All about undergrad
Pro: Exceptional access to profs
Con: Limited research opportunities
Mount Allison attracts more students from other provinces than any other university. The draw? A superb liberal arts education that consistently ranks among the best for student-faculty interaction. Its intimate campus is known for the fine arts (featuring the oldest university art gallery in the country), and its business and science programs are growing. City slickers find tiny Sackville dull, but at least rent is cheap.
Hotshot prof: Colin Laroque, who has attracted international media attention for his research on what tree rings reveal about historical climate change, teaches an intensive field class in Jasper, Alta.
Notable alumnus: Renowned painter Mary Pratt was just celebrated in a retrospective at the The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in St. John’s that The Globe and Mail called “stunning.”
Students say: “I recommend students visit to see if they can handle life in small town New Brunswick. Also: Be aware of the harsh Canadian winter.”
– Brynne Langford, second-year international relations
University of New Brunswick
Centuries old traditions
Pro: Varsity Reds are defending champs of University Cup of hockey
Con: Mixed results on NSSE
Founded in 1785, UNB is littered with Georgian buildings that are especially picturesque when fall transforms the tree-lined boulevards into vivid reds and oranges. UNB’s engineering faculty is highly regarded, especially the geomatics program, which claims a 100-per-cent employment rate and ties with the creators of Google Earth. But it’s not all about engineering, business and marine biology (all strong at UNB). Renaissance College is a tiny interdisciplinary enclave that offers 28 students each year a unique Oxford/Cambridge-like experience in a mansion just off campus.
Hotshot prof: Frank Collins, engineering professor, developed a week-long stress management course for incoming students that aims to emulate the most stressful time of an engineering student’s first year.
Notable alumnus: Allison McCain, chair of McCain Foods Ltd., is the chancellor of University of New Brunswick.
St. Thomas University
Small and intimate
Pro: Lowest tuition in New Brunswick
Con: Buses don’t run on Sundays
St. Thomas is a more intimate alternative to UNB. The universities share space, facilities and a students’ union. St. Thomas students can even take classes from UNB. Yet St. Thomas distinguishes itself with its strong liberal arts tradition; students are encouraged to study the Great Books, such as Dante’s Inferno and Homer’s Iliad. Despite its old-fashioned and Catholic roots, the university has a reputation for its parties. Administration banned alcohol from one residence building and brought in a strict code of conduct after a 2010 alcohol-related student death.
Hotshot prof: Rusty Bittermann received the Canadian Historical Association’s Hilda Neatby Award in 2007 for the best article written on women’s history in English.
Notable alumnus: Author David Adams Richards has won the Governor General’s award in both fiction and nonfiction categories.
Students say: “Fredericton is a great area, very small, but lots going on. The culture is very artsy.”
– Liam McGuire, recent journalism graduate
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
University of Prince Edward Island
Pro: Across the street from huge farmer’s market
Con: University Avenue’s chain stores and restaurants
Students complain that UPEI feels like high school, but there are benefits to its small size and tight-knit community. UPEI can rightly boast about offering an engaging educational experience with lots of professor interaction, according to NSSE. The student body is changing as domestic enrolment falls and the university focuses on recruiting abroad (international enrolment grew by 13 per cent last year).
Hotshot prof: William Whelan, Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Optics, is researching how to use light and sound to find, treat and monitor prostate cancer in hopes of developing less invasive treatment with fewer complications.
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