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cream of the crop

Students on campus of the University of Victoria, in Victoria,BC Friday September 28, 2012 . Chad Hipolito/For The Globe and MailCHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

Searches for university presidents are famously secretive, but that doesn't stop academia from trying to read the tea leaves. Here are a few potential candidates often mentioned as front-runners for some of Canada's top university jobs.

Carl Amrhein:The hard-working two-term provost at the University of Alberta has navigated the school through recent crises – a mass shooting and a dean accused of plagiarism – and was well-liked when he previously served as U of T's dean of arts and science.

Alain Beaudet: The current president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a neurologist by training, he is regarded as a strong manager with experience bridging federal and provincial programs. He has roots at McGill and is French-speaking, which could be an asset in Quebec's volatile political climate.

Martha Crago: She has landed Dalhousie University substantial new funding as its vice-president of research. An expert in language acquisition, she has extensive experience as a vice-rector of international and government relations at the University of Montreal and dean of graduate studies at McGill, which is also her alma mater.

Ronald Daniels: The energetic former dean of law at U of T massively boosted the faculty's funding and shrank class sizes, but courted controversy by nearly doubling tuition. Now just three years into his term as president of Johns Hopkins University, one of America's best-funded research schools, he's a heavyweight candidate but a long-shot to return.

Maureen Mancuso: The second-term provost at University of Guelph is, at least among administrators, arguably Canada's foremost innovator in the quality of teaching and learning – a major challenge facing all Canadian universities. A vibrant personality and Oxford graduate, she has deep ties in Guelph, where some see her as a potential future president.