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Where Canada's big achievers went to school Add to ...

There is probably no more accurate roll call of young Canadian talent and leadership than the Top 40 Under 40 awards.

Since 1995, 600 Canadians have won a coveted place on the annual list, administered by executive-search firm Caldwell Partners International, which honours excellence in business, government service, activism, science, technology and related fields.

Armed with the complete list, we wondered where these young over-achievers got their university education. After all, a survey of which universities educated those on the list would produce a different (and fascinating) kind of metric of quality in Canadian schools.

Of course, attending the same university as Top 40 alumni such as Dragon's Den multimillionaire Brett Wilson or TV presenter Seamus O'Regan is not an automatic ticket to wealth or fame. Many of the 600 Canadians on the list presumably showed talent and leadership at an early age and took it with them to the school of their choice.

As well, a small but significant number of those on the Top 40 list—mostly entrepreneurs—interestingly had no postsecondary schooling at all. And several had either dropped out or had attended a community college.

However, there is a clear link between career achievement and a university degree—and not only an undergraduate degree. A majority of those on the Top 40 list had obtained a masters, PhD or MBA.

So what did we find after tallying the educational credentials of the 600 winners?

First, the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto are the two dominant Canadian schools in producing people on the Top 40 list. Western just barely beat out Toronto (and overseas schools) for the most undergraduate degrees, with Queen's a distant fourth.

Western's Ivey School of Business also took the crown for producing the most MBA grads in Canada, and was just beaten by overseas business schools to the top slot. York's Schulich school and Toronto's Rotman school also boast a healthy slate of Top 40 winners as alumni.

When it comes to post-graduate degrees (in which we include MD and LLB), U of T is about as close to Canadian domination as it gets. All the overseas schools combined produced only slightly more post-grads than Toronto, after which there's a massive drop-off to the third-placed school McGill. (Overseas schools attended by Top 40 winners, which figure prominently in each category, are heavily concentrated in the U.S., U.K. and India. )

Other findings include:

Nearly one in four Top 40 alumni have an MBA degree. That says a lot about the growing currency of the MBA as a ticket to career advancement.

Among the alumni in management, finance or business, the single most common undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Commerce or an equivalent, which suggests that Top 40 winners had their eyes fixed on their career by the end of high school.

But that's not to say that a plain old Bachelor of Arts degree is a ticket to nowhere. Indeed, scores of highly successful Top 40 winners have one.

Undergrad degrees

1 Western Ontario

2 Overseas

3 Toronto

4 Queen's

5 McGill

5 Waterloo

7 Alberta


9 Calgary

9 Manitoba

9 Memorial

MBA degrees

1 Overseas

2 Western Ontario (Ivey)

3 York (Schulich)

4 Toronto (Rotman)

5 Queen's

Post-grad/professional degrees (Masters, MD, LLB, PhD)

1 Overseas

2 Toronto

3 McGill

4 York

5 Waterloo

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