Eleven of Canada's universities are refusing to participate in the influential Maclean's university rankings, saying they find the magazine's survey methodology to be "oversimplified" and "arbitrary."
In a letter sent Monday to Maclean's, the coalition said they will not provide any data for the magazine's popular, yet controversial, annual survey of universities, coming out this fall.
The letter was signed by the presidents of the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, University of Manitoba, University of Toronto, McMaster University, University of Ottawa, University of Montreal and Dalhousie University.
"In various ways and for some years, many institutional spokespersons have expressed considerable reservations about the methodology used in the Maclean's university survey and the validity of some of the measures used," the presidents wrote.
"Thus far, these serious concerns have gone largely unaddressed, and there is still no evidence that Maclean's intends to respond to them."
The Maclean's university ranking, a competitor to The Globe and Mail's University Report Card, has been the subject of much debate. Universities have objected to being scored and ranked. The letter will no doubt lead to other schools pulling out of the rankings, sources said.
The letter comes on the heels of universities saying they didn't want to participate in Maclean's recent graduate survey. Despite objections from various universities, the issue, which looked at alumni satisfaction with their university experience, was still published using data from various sources.
Tony Keller, managing editor of special projects at Maclean's, said in an interview Monday that the 16th annual rankings issue will continue in its current form regardless of whether institutions willingly participate.
"This data is all available and we will be publishing it," he said.
Among their objections, the university presidents say that they are concerned that the Maclean's rankings aggregate data from a range of variables. The magazine, they say, arbitrarily assigns weights to variables that are of questionable validity. This, they say, does a disservice to students.
"The variables selected by Maclean's also fail to capture the breadth of experiences students say are important in their university education," they write.
Indira Samarasekera, president of the University of Alberta, said in an interview: "We felt that if they were not using the data in a way that we considered rigorous, given that we are academic institutions that are committed to accuracy, transparency and quality ... we really couldn't justify public institutions spending taxpayer dollars to support the exercise."
Mr. Keller, however, said the methodology used by Maclean's is fair.
"Based on 16 years of experience of doing this at Maclean's, based on extensive consultation with the universities and with experts in the field, we came up with a ranking of all the elements that make up quality in a university," he said.