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College graduates wearing graduation gowns and mortarboard hats.

Christopher Futcher/iStockphoto

These snapshots of 61 campuses across the country, with details ranging from student satisfaction to campus atmosphere, are intended to help university-bound students make their choice.

Canada is home to so many great universities that deciding where to enroll can be dizzying. For this year's Canadian University Report, we looked beyond global prestige, rankings and research highlights and focused our lens firmly on the undergraduate education experience. We spoke to faculty, alumni and university officials about how their schools tackled their most daunting education challenges. From publicly available sources, we gathered data on affordability, financial aid, library spending, student satisfaction, retention, degree completion, student achievement, reputation, research funding, teaching awards and more. Most importantly, we heard from more than 500 students. They waxed poetic about the beauty of their campus or complained about their terrible commute by bus. They told us about big things (their anxieties about getting a job) and small things (their irritations with WiFi, cafeteria food, snobby classmates, broken electrical plug-ins, crowded libraries and the list goes on). We also paid particular attention to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), a major survey that asks students questions that get at the heart of the most vital element of a great education. The following profiles offer a snapshot of the quality of the undergrad experience at 61 degree-granting universities across Canada. Read more on page 16 if you are interested in ideas about what makes an excellent undergraduate education.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

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UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

Vancouver (main) and Kelowna

Students: 61,200

Cost: $5,800

With 29 programs on the QS World University Ranking and about five times the research funding of the University of Victoria or Simon Fraser University, there is no doubt that UBC is the place to go in B.C. For students looking for an emphasis on those things. Competition is stiff: 24,000 students vied for 7,800 first-year seats and admitted science students boasted a 92 per cent high school grade average. The huge school has made genuine efforts to improve undergraduate education and achieved one of the lowest student-to-professor ratios in the country. Still, students gave mixed reviews on a national student survey, landing UBC well below average on Canadian students' overall satisfaction.

Your typical classmate: Takes his or her homework very seriously; students complain that their peers can be competitive to the point of snobbishness, but getting involved in UBC's huge offering of activities and clubs is a good way to tap into a fun social community.

Students say: That a heavy workload and a huge campus can feel overwhelming. "I was very busy at times and wish I had been able to attend more school events. But, overall, there are plenty of cultural and learning experiences to be had at UBC," says Aurora Tejeida, journalism graduate.

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CAPILANO UNIVERSITY

North Vancouver (main), Sechelt and Squamish

Students: 14,000

Cost: $4,100

As a college-turned-teaching university, relatively few professors boast PhDs. What they do bring is extensive industry experience to popular vocational programs such as jazz music, animation, illustration and exercise science. This year, students and professors clashed with administration over deep cuts to art programs, including the cancellation of textile and studio arts programs. The university has currently expanded its successful certificate in the Squamish language and culture to other aboriginal languages, including Lil'wat and Sechelt.

Hotshot prof: Violet Jessen's early childhood education students created plans and 3-D models for a new playground in the community.

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Students say: The commuter campus can feel impersonal at first, but an intimate and supportive student community exists for those willing to put in a little effort. "Now I think of Capilano as my second (if not first) home," says Brittany Barnes, third-year communications.

EMILY CARR UNIVERSITY OF ART + DESIGN

Vancouver

Students: 2,000

Cost: $4,400

This respected art and design school continues to stay on the cutting edge with an innovative interactive design program and a Health Design Lab that allows students to work with real clients in the health-care field. ECUAD is in the midst of a major fundraising campaign for a new $134-million campus, slated to open in 2016. The university dedicates less of its budget to financial aid than any other university in B.C., so don't expect any discount on tuition. Three in five of its graduates find work in the creative industry and 29 per cent are self-employed.

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Notable alumnus: Kevin Eastwood's documentary series Emergency Room: Life and Death at VGH attracted record-breaking audiences when it premiered on the Knowledge Network in January.

This year: Industrial design student Scott Forsythe was one of only three selected from around the globe for a prestigious internship at IKEA.

UNIVERSITY OF THE FRASER VALLEY

Abbotsford (main), Chilliwack, Mission and Hope

Students: 13,200

Cost: $4,800

Students speak highly of UFV's accessible faculty and small classes (capped at 36). However, the university's cozy size comes with some drawbacks; students complain that limited course availability makes it difficult to graduate on time. They also report a lack of study space, but a new student union building with ample study spots is on the horizon.

Hotshot prof: Michael Gaetz and a group of undergraduate volunteers use world-class brain-imaging techniques to measure and prevent concussions in student athletes.

Students say: The farmland campus overlooking Mount Baker is beautiful. "Part of UFV's goodness comes from its smallness," says Dessa Bayrock, recent English graduate, "but as I near the end of my degree, it's becoming stifling."

KWANTLEN POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY

Surrey (main), Richmond, Langley and Cloverdale

Students: 19,200

Cost: $5,300

Surrey is home to the largest number of young people in British Columbia, so it's no wonder that KPU is experiencing record enrolment. Expansion plans include a new $20-million campus in Surrey City Centre and a new two-year diploma in craft brewery operations. Students say that a lack of extra-curricular activities on this commuter campus makes meeting new people tough, but KPU's small class sizes help.

Your typical classmate: Speaks more than one language; around half of students who go to KPU straight from high school were previously in an ESL program.

Students say: Their education is preparing them for the real world. "Because many of my profs work in the industry, I think they're more equipped to offer realistic advice and connections," says recent journalism grad Katya Slepian.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Prince George (main), Peace River, Terrace, Prince Rupert and Quesnel

Students: 4,200

Cost: $5,500

UNBC's focus on preparing students for work in the resource sector aligns with the region's strong oil, gas and forestry industries. The school, which calls itself "Canada's Green University," is heated by wood pellets made from trees killed by pine beetles. Students enjoy interesting lab opportunities, thanks to considerable research funding for its size; however, co-op placements are scarce.

Your typical classmate: Eats most meals at the cafeteria. Starting next year, a seven-day meal plan ($2,166 per semester) will be mandatory for both first- and second-year students living in residence.

Students say: They are worried about budget cuts; with a decreasein government funding and enrolment below capacity, UNBC has to make due with $400,000 less than last year.

QUEST UNIVERSITY

Squamish

Students: 700

Cost: $30,200

Seven-year-old, private Quest University ranked tops in Canada on a national student survey for its innovative education model in which students take one intense course each month in classes capped at 20. Despite the high sticker price, one third of Quest's operating budget is set aside for financial aid, and many students report paying tuition in line with other B.C. universities. Some students worry their Quest degree won't be recognized by employers and graduate programs, but president David Helfand's advocacy on behalf of individual grads has landed them at top universities, including Stanford and The

London School of Economics and Political Science.

Students say: The best – and worst – thing about Quest is its tiny size. "I literally know the first and last name of every student," says third-year student Eva Schipper. "It's incredibly intimate, at times, too intimate. Dating can be soap opera-esque."

ROYAL ROADS UNIVERSITY

Victoria

Students: 4,900

Cost: $8,900

This former military college reinvented itself by targeting working adults with professionalgraduate programs that mix online and in-person instruction.In recent years the school has added 11 undergraduate programs,including environmental science,business and tourism. High tuition and limited financial aid make this an expensive choice, but two years after graduation, RRU alumni are more likely to have higher incomes in jobs related to their fields than the average university graduate in B.C. Students give their educational experience at RRU good reviews.

Your typical classmate: Can be found studying by the classical Japanese garden pool or gazing at the Juan de Fuca Strait.

SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY

Burnaby (main), Vancouver and Surrey

Students: 33,700

Cost: $6,100

SFU is known for its flexible trimester system and strong co-op programs. The university is home to one of the top geography programs in the world and, with the recent installation of a high-powered telescope, will offer astronomy courses for the first time this fall. Large average class sizes and consistently low performance across national student survey measures suggest the university could give more attention to its undergraduate experience.

Your typical classmate: Was an honour roll student in high school; at 88.3 per cent, SFU's average entering GPA is the highest in B.C.

Students say: The concrete, mountain-top campus feels desolate. "My initial impression of campus was bleak," says Christina Ma, third-year economics and political science. "Over time, I've explored the nooks and crannies of SFU and found some inspiring architecture."

THOMPSON RIVERS UNIVERSITY

Kamloops (main) and Williams Lake

Students: 25,500

Cost: $5,100

TRU continues its long history as a pioneer of accessible education by allowing students to get credit for material learned through massive open online courses (MOOCs). Students studying at its main campus enjoy small classes and approachable professors. Although Kamloops lacks a cultural scene, ample outdoor opportunities – skiing, mountain biking and hiking – abound.

Your typical classmate: Is not on campus; 12,000 students are enrolled in distance and online courses.

Hotshot prof: Nicole Schabus was on the legal team that won an unprecedented decision at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Tsilhqot'in Nation's land rights case.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Quest: a small school with an innovative education model

VANCOUVER ISLAND UNIVERSITY

Nanaimo (main), Duncan, Parksville and Powell River

Students: 18,000

Cost: $4,700

VIU has made genuine efforts to serve disadvantaged students in its region. The school deserves credit for becoming the first university in B.C. to offer free tuition to students who were under government care as children. The percentage of the student body who identify as aboriginal has now reached 10 per

cent. The city of Nanaimo leaves much to be desired, but easy beach and hiking access partly make up for the drab town.

Your typical classmate: Isn't straight out of high school; the average VIU student is 25.

Hotshot prof: Pam Shaw worked with urban planning students to develop a community plan with the Toquaht Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA

Victoria

Students: 47,000

Cost: $5,900

UVic offers the best of two worlds: the university is home to significant research, such as its world-class undersea laboratories, and also has a more intimate feel (and much smaller average class size) than gargantuan UBC. The university's philosophy is that the best teachers are active researchers, but students rate the university poorly on student-faculty interaction. It has a teaching stream that allows professors to focus on pedagogy research and a unique scholarship program that includes research mentorship to undergrad students.

Your typical classmate: Is a bicycle commuter. With the mildest climate in Canada and great cycling infrastructure, 8 per cent of trips to the university are by bicycle.

This year: The faculty union raised concerns that fewer sessional instructors would be employed because of government funding cuts; with 60 per cent of first- and second-year classes taught by sessionals, union leadership claims this has already led to growing class sizes.

ALBERTA

UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA

Edmonton (main), Calgary and Camrose

Students: 39,000

Cost: $6,200

U of A boasts great profs (it is home to the most 3M teaching award winners in the country) and a low first-year dropout rate. Ninety-seven per cent of its graduates are employed within two years. So, the mystery remains: Why do students rate the university so poorly on national student surveys?Regardless, with its massive haul in research funding and globally ranked programs, U of A is Alberta's premier university. If you live in Edmonton, the vibrant neighbourhood surrounding the campus is the place to be.

Your typical classmate: Can be found hiding from severe winters in U of A's excellent library; the university spends nearly twice as much on library operations as the University of Calgary.

This year: A new $57-million recreation building will open, featuring perks such as a 20-metre rock climbing wall.

ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY

Online (main) and Athabasca

Students: 40,900

Cost: $4,900

Athabasca is an open university specializing in distance and online education. Despite lacking a physical campus, the university fosters opportunities for students to network and collaborate on its own social media platform. Students give their education above-average ratings, but the university struggles with low graduation rates in some programs. For example, only 21 per cent of students in the bachelor of health administration graduate within seven years.

Your typical classmate: Is enrolled part time; 80 per cent of students continue working while in school.

This year: Athabasca launched Canada's first online bachelor of science in architecture.

UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY

Calgary

Students: 31,500

Cost: $6,400

Like its hometown, the relatively young U of C is an emerging heavyweight. Four departments – education, engineering, medicine and English – are ranked among the top 100 in the QS World University Ranking. The university is focused on its global ties and has ambitious plans to attract international students and boost opportunities for domestic students to travel abroad. Aesthetically speaking, the campus, which is isolated from downtown by the Bow River, is nothing to write home about.

Students say: Nearby recreation hubs Banff and Canmore are a bonus. "The students here work hard and play really hard," says Daniel Calud, third-year nursing.

This year: U of C announced plans to cut 19 programs, including early Christian studies and tourism.

UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE

Lethbridge (main), Edmonton and Calgary

Students: 8,200

Cost: $6,000

Despite its small size, U of L has carved out a niche with its strong neuroscience department and leading bioengineering research. Students gave mixed reviews on a national survey, and the school struggles to retain students; a quarter of freshmen don't return in second year. With only 1,000 residence spaces, many students are forced to commute to campus using Lethbridge's mediocre public transit system.

Hotshot prof: Hans-Joachim Wieden works with a team of student researchers whose technology inventions netted the top prize at the 2013 North American International Genetically Engineered Machine Regional Jamboree.

Students say: The cozy university is welcoming. "I have built relationships with many of my professors because of the small class sizes and close community," says Megan Sutherland, fourth-year mathematics.

MACEWAN UNIVERSITY

Edmonton

Students: 9,000

Cost: $6,600

While you may expect MacEwan, a former college, to be more affordable than a research university, more than $1,000 in mandatory fees on top of tuition make it the most expensive university in Alberta. Below average financial aid doesn't help affordability. Nevertheless, students give MacEwan good reviews: 94 per cent of senior students say they would return if they had to start all over again. Hot programs include health care, social work, fine arts and drama.

Your typical classmate: May struggle to repay debt after graduation; MacEwan graduates are more likely to default on their federal student loans than other Albertan graduates.

Students say: That computer labs are overcrowded and WiFi is slow, but, overall, the campus is beautiful and convenient. "The campus is modern, and I love that it is downtown," says Chloe Mix, fourth-year communications.

MOUNT ROYAL UNIVERSITY

Calgary

Students: 13,200

Cost: $6,400

Of all the colleges in Western Canada that recently transitioned into universities, MRU is arguably the most successful, performing well across many measures on a national student survey. It boasts a low first-year dropout rate while maintaining accessible entry requirements. Students complain about limited and expensive parking, which is a challenge in car-obsessed Calgary. A new building slated to replace its current inadequate library in 2017 will be another milestone on MRU's ascent.

Hotshot profs: Roberta Lexier and Melanie Rathburn took their students to Honduras for five weeks to study culture, biodiversity and conservation in a global setting.

Students say: They benefit from small classes. "With class sizes of 15 to 30, it is almost impossible to go through the semester without getting to know your fellow classmates," says Andrew Bardsley, third-year history.

SASKATCHEWAN

UNIVERSITY OF REGINA

Regina

Students: 13,600

Cost: $6,400

U of R ranked poorly on every measure in a national student survey; although, first-year students rated the university higher than the more prominent University of Saskatchewan. Students complain about dated buildings, insufficient and expensive parking, inconsistent public transit and a lack of school

spirit. A planned new building that will increase campus residence spaces by 50 per cent should help matters. Regina is an affordable city with a vibrant nightlife in its small urban core.

Your typical classmate: Enjoys small classes: 82 per cent of classes have fewer than 50 students.

Students say: The education program is fantastic. "I have absolutely adored every second and would never change my decision," says Kara Fidelack, third-year elementary education.

UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN

Saskatoon

Students: 21,600

Cost: $6,400

Students and faculty sparred with administration this year over the impact of budget cuts on the quality of education. With a $44-million deficit, tough decisions, which will affect students, loom. Students in U of S's world-class agriculture programs report they are already feeling the impact; in an effort to save money, the school's flock of 300 sheep was sold last year. In a national survey, students complained that U of S lacked opportunities to enrich their education through co-ops, community service and study-abroad programs.

Hotshot prof: Rick Retzlaff's second-year engineering students designed and built prototypes of a device to help disabled people easily access and retrieve their backpack while in a wheelchair.

Students say: The classical architecture of the campus and the farmland setting on the South Saskatchewan River make up for harsh winters. "Exploring the buildings and learning the rich history has made me really appreciate the campus," says Anastasia Stadnyk, third-year commerce.

MANITOBA

BRANDON UNIVERSITY

Brandon (main), Winnipeg, Ashern and Portage la Prairie

Students: 2,900

Cost: $4,100

Despite BU's intimate learning environment, students rated their educational experience below average across many measures on a national student survey. Only 55 per cent of students graduate within seven years. Change may be on the horizon: the university has seen high turnover in academic leadership

roles over the past two years and is developing an initiative to support students who are struggling academically. Strengths include its music department, with its competitive entry, and high employment rates.

The city: Brandon is growing twice as fast as the national average, making the small town and its burgeoning arts scene more interesting every year.

Students say: Professors are approachable. "The biggest pro of being a student at BU is the small class size," says Norma Vint, fourth-year biology. "The biggest con is limited class offerings."

UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA

Winnipeg

Students: 29,100

Cost: $4,300

Enormous U of M offers the typical perks of a large research university: it's got a wide variety of classes and ample research opportunities. It also devotes a considerably larger chunk of its budget to financial aid than other universities in Manitoba. Downfalls include large class sizes and an impersonal suburban campus. U of M is tied with the University of Toronto and Mount Alison University for producing the most Rhodes Scholars (five) since 2010, a testament to the calibre of its students.

Hotshot prof: Kelley Beaverford collaborated with architecture students to build a primary school library in Ghana and a tea house in Turkey.

This year: U of M appointed Ry Moran to be the first director of the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, which will become the permanent home of the historical documentation collected by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it opens in 2015.

UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG

Winnipeg

Students: 10,800

Cost: $4,200

U of W is known for its high-quality arts programs. With an average entering grade that is considerably lower than that of its rival, the University of Manitoba, it's much more accessible. Students also report higher satisfaction with their education. The campus includes historical buildings in the core of

downtown. Although Winnipeg gets a bad rap for harsh winters and mosquitoes, its arts scene is lively, and its culinary scene has attracted some of Canada's

most innovative chefs.

Students say: The library is lousy, and the numbers back up this complaint: U of W spends less than half of what the University of Manitoba spends on its library per student.

This year: The city of Winnipeg finally joined the rest of the country in offering students subsidized transit passes.

ONTARIO

ALGOMA UNIVERSITY

Sault Ste. Marie (main), Brampton, St. Thomas and Timmins

Students: 1,400

Cost: $6,400

With no graduate programs and little research activity, tiny Algoma focuses exclusively on offering undergraduate education to students in its region. A minimum entering average of 65 per cent gives students of many abilities a shot at higher education. Its accessibility could be connected to its challenge to hold on to students; a large portion drop out before their second year of studies.

Your typical classmate: Went to high school nearby. More than 94 per cent of Algoma's student body is from Ontario.

Hotshot prof: Michael Burtch ventures into the remote wilderness of Northern Ontario with his fine art students to study the Group of Seven in the setting that inspired their iconic work.

BROCK UNIVERSITY

St. Catharines (main) and Hamilton

Students: 18,700

Cost: $6,400

Brock manages to achieve a good balance between research activities and quality undergraduate education. The university's biggest selling point is its co-op program, the fifth largest in the country, which boasts a 100 per cent placement rate. Its beautiful setting on the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Lake Moodie is a bonus.

Your typical classmate: Enjoys the small town feel of St. Catharines.

Students say: They value the unique co-op program. "The biggest pro for me was the integrated co-op program," says Royden Thomson, second-year business. "The biggest con is [expensive food], so I have to really watch my meal plan."

CARLETON UNIVERSITY

Ottawa

Students: 25,600

Cost: $7,000

Carleton serves the capital with well-known policy and journalism programs and also shines in architecture, computer science and physical science. Despite a good reputation, Carleton's performance is mixed. Students rated the school below average on a national student survey, and its degree completion rate (the percentage of students who graduate within seven years) is notably lower than other comprehensive universities in Ontario.

Students say: That student politics rival House of Cards in nastiness. "I know six people who want to be Prime Minister," says Charles McIvor, fourth-year public affairs and policy.

This year: Carleton was in talks with the cities of Cornwall and Niagara Falls about opening satellite campuses focused on entrepreneurship.

UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH

Guelph (main), Alfred, Kemptville, Ridgetown and Toronto

Students: 23,200

Cost: $7,500

U of G is recognized internationally for its strong agriculture and forestry programs. Students gave it high ratings across many measures on a national student survey, and the university boasts high retention and graduation rates. With low unemployment and crime, pleasant Guelph is a great place to live.

Students say: The large intramural programs offer many opportunities to try new sports. "Dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, floor hockey and water polo, as well as the regular ball sports [are available]. And I was surprised to find out there was a quidditch team in my last year!" says recent nutrition grad Sarah Gebremicael.

This year: U of G announced plans to shutter its regional agriculture campuses in Alfred and Kemptville in response to low enrolment, a decision that triggered outcry from students, community leaders and the farming industry.

LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY

Thunder Bay (main) and Orillia

Students: 8,600

Cost: $6,900

Surrounded by boreal forest near Lake Superior, Lakehead is reflective of its region. A newly opened centre focused on sustainable mining practices will tackle challenges such as environmental impact and aboriginal treaty rights in Northern Ontario's booming resource industry. Students gave the school below-average marks on a national student survey, especially on student-faculty interaction. WiFi and electrical plug-ins in study areas need serious upgrading, according to students.

Hotshot prof: Carney Matheson and Lakehead graduate Margaret Ashley Veall travelled to Bolzano, Italy, to study weapons and tools discovered with Europe's oldest frozen mummy, Ötzi the Iceman.

This year: Lakehead welcomed the inaugural class to its law school, the first to open in Ontario in 44 years.

LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY

Sudbury (main) and Barrie

Students: 9,100

Cost: $6,400

With 50 per cent growth in enrolment over the past decade, Laurentian is undergoing expansion of French language programs and massive construction, including a proposed $25-million campus in Barrie. For a university that focuses primarily on undergraduates, it receives considerable research funding from the private sector. Students rate their overall satisfaction with their education poorly. The tree-filled campus on the shore of Ramsey Lake is lovely.

Hotshot prof: Terrance Galvin had his architecture students build ice-fishing huts that were then auctioned off, raising $20,000 for the brand-new architecture school.

Students say: Transit options to downtown Sudbury from campus are limited.

MCMASTER UNIVERSITY

Hamilton (main), Burlington, Waterloo and St. Catharines

Students: 28,400

Cost: $6,800

Despite being a large research university, McMaster is known for innovative teaching; its faculty netted 14 national awards for teaching excellence. Nevertheless, the school's performance on a national student survey was mixed. With cheaper tuition and fees, and a slightly lower-than-average entering grade, McMaster manages to remain more accessible than other internationally recognized research universities such as Queen's and Western. Gothic arches and stone buildings covered in ivy give the campus a magical feel, students say.

Hotshot prof: Joseph Kim redesigned his first-year psychology course, the largest class in the university, to integrate lectures with online modules, small group tutorials and opportunities to apply concepts to real-life situations.

This year: McMaster will open an $80-million health centre in downtown Hamilton, further cementing its reputation for excellence in health care.

NIPISSING UNIVERSITY

North Bay (main), Bracebridge and Brantford

Students: 5,600

Cost: $6,800

Nipissing students say that accessible professors and plentiful learning resources make them feel like more than just a number. Cons include limited course selection. The university is home to one of Ontario's best education programs, with a unique concurrent program that allows students to get experience in real classrooms starting in first year. The campus is showing signs of wear and tear (beware the leaking ceilings).

Students say: The campus setting is beautiful. "Nipissing is situated in a pristine forest, overlooking the lake. When I first arrived, my heart skipped a beat when looking at the city of North Bay," says Bradley Gaasenbeek, second-year history.

This year: The students' union and university administration squabbled over management of Nipissing's only pub, The Wall, which remains closed as of this writing.

OCAD UNIVERSITY

Toronto

Students: 4,700

Cost: $6,800

Access to professors at the top of their field draws aspiring artists to OCAD U. Innovative programs include indigenous visual culture and digital painting. Students report a hypercompetitive environment and harsh criticism from professors, issues the school appears to be addressing. OCAD U's dramatic campus includes a black-and-white box balanced on six-storey-tall, pencil-like pillars in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Your typical classmate: Is stressed out. The National College Health Assessment found that OCAD U students are considerably more anxious and depressed than other Canadian students.

This year: Frustrated students and faculty banded together to push OCAD U to deal with maintenance problems, including broken sinks and chunks of falling paint.

UNIVERSITY OF ONTARIO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Oshawa

Students: 9,100

Cost: $8,400

Just over a decade old, UOIT is a technology-rich university specializing in preparing students for careers in science, health care and the justice system. The university recently launched a new initiative exploring hydrogen production at its Clean Energy Research Lab and installed a ventilation system in laboratories that improves energy efficiency. Students rated UOIT below average on many measures in a national student survey, and the university struggles with a high percentage of students who don't make it to second year.

Students say: That paying nearly $2,500 in fees (including a mandatory laptop) on top of tuition is too much. "We pay for so much we do not use," says Courtney Brissette, a recent criminology and justice graduate.

This year: UOIT's forensic science program became the second program in Canada to receive prestigious accreditation from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA

Ottawa

Students: 42,600

Cost: $6,700

Bilingual uOttawa is a research powerhouse that receives nods from all the major global university rankings. Its sociology department has been recognized as one of the world's best. Dismal reviews on national student surveys indicate undergraduate education needs attention. Perhaps the university's plan to personalize courses by blending classroom instruction with online activities (the target is 20 per cent of classes by 2020) will improve student satisfaction. In 2013 a courtroom opened on campus, bringing real lawsuits directly to law students.

Students say: The massive campus is manageable. "My first impression of my campus was that its size was daunting," says Huidan Sun, second-year speech language pathology. "Over time, it had become a welcoming second home."

QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY

Kingston

Students: 24,800

Cost: $7,100

Queen's offers both the benefits of a prestigious research university and a great undergraduate experience, especially in its world-class humanities and social sciences departments. Students give high ratings for its supportive campus environment. However, they don't enjoy the access to faculty that they would at a smaller university, and Queen's is working to address large class sizes by redesigning courses. With a strong school spirit and the majority of students living within a short walk, the university's vibrant campus culture is arguably the liveliest in the country.

Your typical classmate: Will have higher debt at graduation than other Ontario graduates. However, low loan default rates suggest that Queen's grads don't struggle to repay their loans.

Students say: Campus culture is fantastic. "The school fosters an environment where students take the reins of their own clubs and activities," says Garrett Vierhout, third-year engineering. "This promotes a lot of leadership among students."

RYERSON UNIVERSITY

Toronto

Students: 31,500

Cost: $6,800

Ryerson's roots as a polytechnic institution are apparent in its career-focused offerings, such as its high-quality journalism and large undergraduate business programs. Its innovative business incubator Digital Media Zone was ranked fifth globally and tops in Canada in a recent international ranking. The university spends considerably less of its budget on financial aid and library services than other Ontario universities.

Hotshot president: Sheldon Levy is celebrated as an influential city builder for leading Ryerson's growth in Toronto's urban core, including the revitalization of Maple Leaf Gardens.

This year: Ryerson created a new course on social activism in memory of Jack Layton, who taught at the university in the 1970s and 1980s.

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

Toronto (main), Mississauga and Scarborough

Students: 82,000

Cost: $7,300

Heavyweight U of T is regularly recognized as one of the top universities in the world. With leading faculty and research in many fields, the school offers a breadth and depth of high-quality programs unparalleled in the country. Among all this prestige (and a student body the size of a mid-sized city), the average undergrad student can feel lost. Students rate the university low on supportive campus environment and active and collaborative learning. But U of T is working on it: first-year foundational programs with small classes, enhanced orientation and mental health services and innovative new scholarship programs are designed to help students find their own community.

Hotshot prof: Shafique Virani has won a closet-full of awards for innovative pedagogy and the use of multimedia and other technologies to enhance his history and religion classes.

Students say: That rigorous academic standards and a competitive environment cause stress.

PHOTO CAPTION:

The University of Toronto: huge, prestigious, rigorous and competitive.

TRENT UNIVERSITY

Peterborough (main) and Oshawa

Students: 7,900

Cost: $7,500

Trent is designed after the college system at Oxford and boasts small classes. Students gave their education average ratings on a national student survey. High ancillary fees make Trent one of the most expensive universities in Ontario, but a generous scholarship program helps. The Otonabee River that snakes through campus is breathtaking, and a paved path that runs alongside provides bike access to downtown. Still, students complain that the campus location, seven kilometres from the city core, makes going out inconvenient.

Your typical classmate: Struggles to complete his or her studies in seven years; Trent has one of the lowest graduation rates in Ontario.

Students say: The university is politically active and left-leaning. "As a Conservative-minded individual, it can become frustrating," says Corey LeBlanc, second-year economics.

UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO

Waterloo (main), Cambridge, Kitchener and Stratford

Students: 33,800

Cost: $6,900

Waterloo is the closest thing Canada has to a Stanford. Students benefit from opportunities to explore business through its leading entrepreneurship offerings and the world's largest co-op program. Stand-out programs include engineering, computer science, mathematics and environmental studies. However, while the school offers great opportunities to enrich one's education, the quality of education occurring in the classroom needs attention. Students rated Waterloo poorly on a national student survey, especially on student-professor interaction and supportive campus environment.

Your typical classmate: Received a scholarship. Waterloo devotes a bigger chunk of its budget to financial aid than any other university in Ontario.

Students say: Co-op is a great opportunity for students willing to seek it out for themselves. "Co-op is preparing me for the real world, to be a successful individual postgraduation," says fourth-year bioinformatics student Ameesha Isaac. "That being said, a lot of my actions that pushed my growth were due to my own initiative."

UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO

London

Students: 28,500

Cost: $7,300

Western has a reputation for being a party school, but its culture runs much deeper than keggers. Students report a fun and friendly atmosphere and big school spirit. The university has good connections with the community of London, with plentiful opportunities to get realworld experience though academic projects or volunteering. Undergradstudents give Western high marks on their overall satisfaction, and the university boasts one of the highest rates of student retention in the province. Hot programs include business, psychology, philosophy and English.

Hotshot prof: Riley Hinson's third-year psychology students worked with Quintin Warner House, an addiction treatment centre, to research and make changes to its intake process to address wait lists.

Students say: The community is welcoming. "[It's] very friendly and collaborative," says Lauren Neal, second-year economics. "It's very easy to join clubs."

WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY

Waterloo (main), Brantford and Kitchener

Students: 18,000

Cost: $7,000

Laurier is a university with big ambitions. With 14,000 students squeezed into its compact downtown campus, it is developing branch campuses to accommodate growing enrolment. The student body at its Brantford location has grown from 39 students in 1999 to 3,000 today, and the university hopes to secure provincial funding to build a new campus in the fast-growing GTA town of Milton. Student ratings on national student surveys hover around average on every measure.

Your typical classmate: Is business-minded; Laurier boasts a high-quality business education, and one of the largest business co-op programs in the country.

Hotshot prof: Shohini Ghose, a theoretical physicist who researches quantum mechanics, was named a TED 2014 Fellow for her work building a community of female scientists as director of Laurier's Centre for Women in Science.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Ryerson University: a career-focused, innovative downtown school.

UNIVERSITY OF WINDSOR

Windsor

Students: 15,700

Cost: $6,600

The university is playing an important role in revitalizing the city of Windsor, which continues to struggle with high unemployment. A number of downtown historical buildings are being renovated to house fine arts, executive education and social work programs. Close ties with the community extend into the classroom, and many programs integrate community-based projects into traditional learning. For example, students studying social work, business, law, geography and history collaborate with community leaders to improve social housing in Windsor and Essex County.

Hotshot students: In the faculty of engineering team up with industry or government to solve a real-life problem as part of their final capstone project. This year, students proposed solutions to traffic flow problems and helped design a new waste-water treatment facility.

This year: Administrators held back $7-million in funding from the University of Windsor Students' Alliance because of its governance problems.

YORK UNIVERSITY

Toronto (main) and Glendon (French)

Students: 53,000

Cost: $6,900

York is best known for the liberal arts. However, undergraduate enrolment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has grown significantly in recent years. York deserves credit for its inclusiveness, attracting more new immigrants than most other universities in Ontario. Almost a third of students are the first in their family to pursue higher education. Students gave the university poor ratings on a national student survey, but new plans to improve student retention and graduation rates may help.

Your typical classmate: Has strong opinions; spirited social justice debates among its politically engaged student body are frequent.

Hotshot departments: Include English, geography, history, law, archeology, philosophy and psychology, all of which were recognized as among the world's best in international rankings.

QUEBEC

BISHOP'S UNIVERSITY

Lennoxville (main) and Knowlton

Students: 2,800

Cost: $3,900 (Quebec residents), $7,500 (out of province)

Students rave about the high-quality education and supportive campus environment at Bishop's. The school outperformed every other university in Quebec on a national student survey, but students complained about limited course offerings. Attending a Gaiters football game is like swimming through a sea of purple (the official colour of Bishop's). The campus, located in a sleepy borough of Sherbrooke, resembles Hogwarts.

Hotshot prof: Vicki Chartrand's sociology students created a student group called Prison Letters that responds to information requests about the justice system made by prisoners.

Students say: Lennoxville is a true college town. "It is rare for a student to go anywhere without seeing someone they know. Socializing at Bishop's is an integral part of the culture and impossible to get away from!" says Julia Hayes, third-year business administration.

CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY

Montreal

Students: 43,900

Cost: $3,700 (Quebec residents), or $8,100 (out of province)

With 14,500 part-time students, Concordia offers flexible, accessible learning. Particularly strong programs include English literature and education. Concordia is nearing completion on its $400-million, decade-long campus redevelopment that transformed its downtown Montreal neighbourhood with sparkling modern buildings, public art, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. A plan to increase study spaces and integrate new technologies at its libraries includes the creation of a "technology sandbox," where students can explore cutting-edge gadgets. In 2013 the Ed Meagher Arena on the Loyola campus reopened after a major overhaul that allows the hockey rink to be open 11 months a year, a 60 per cent increase in available ice time.

Hotshot prof: Stephen Yeager, who was awarded support from a new fund to encourage innovative teaching, is developing an online and in-class course that examines Old English through the lens of fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien.

UNIVERSITÉ LAVAL

Quebec City

Students: 48,000

Cost: $3,200 (Quebec residents), or $7,600 (out of province)

Laval's 350-year history is as rich as that of its city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alumni include several former prime ministers. The Laval school, which emerged from its social science department, shaped modern-day Quebec by inspiring the Quiet Revolution. Today, the university continues to have influence with its research heft, especially in neuroscience, genomics and the impact of climate change on the Arctic.

Your typical classmate: Doesn't talk to his or her profs outside class; students gave student-faculty interactions a resounding thumbs-down on a national

student survey.

This year: Laval's football club Rouge et Or won the coveted Vanier Cup for the sixth time in 10 years.

MCGILL UNIVERSITY

Montreal (main) and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue

Students: 36,000

Cost: $4,000 (Quebec residents) or $8,300 (out of province)

Top-notch students from Canada and abroad are attracted to McGill for its international prestige. The university is home to nine Nobel laureates and regularly tops rankings of Canadian universities. Undergrads complain about large class sizes, a competitive and non-supportive learning environment

and an intense workload.

Your typical classmate: Is very serious about academics, but can also let loose in the playground that is Montreal.

Students say: McGill feels like its own city within a city, both distinct and connected to Montreal. "There is the synergy between the classical and modern architecture that I'd like to think parallels education, in combining history and known knowledge with exploration and discovery," says strategic management student Sophia Ebelt.

UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL

Montreal

Students: 47,700

Cost: $3,300 (Quebec residents), or $7,300 (out of province)

uMontréal is a research heavyweight, ranking behind only the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto for research income. A new science complex under construction is the largest infrastructure investment in higher education that the Quebec government has ever made. The school performed below average on a national student survey and was ranked bottom in Canada on student-faculty interaction. The campus, consisting mostly of postmodern and art deco buildings, is a short jaunt from downtown by a dedicated bike lane or transit.

Your typical classmate: Is a hockey fan. The women's hockey team is an emerging giant that clinched the national championship in 2012-13, before losing to rival McGill this year.

This year: The International Council for Science selected Montreal as one of five global hubs for Future Earth – an ambitious 10-year research initiative focused on developing sustainable solutions to environmental change – which will open opportunities for researchers at uMontréal and other Montreal-based universities.

NEW BRUNSWICK

MOUNT ALLISON UNIVERSITY

Sackville

Students: 2,500

Cost: $8,200

Mount Allison is regularly lauded for its exceptional liberal arts and sciences education. Getting in is competitive: the average entering grade is 87 per cent, higher than the University of Toronto or University of British Columbia, and the school attracts more students from out of province than any other university. A true college town, tiny Sackville's population is almost entirely connected to the university and has, as enRoute magazine put it, "more galleries than traffic lights."

Your typical classmate: Has bold academic ambitions; Mount Allison ranks tops in Canada for producing recent Rhodes Scholars (tied with the University of Toronto and the University of Manitoba), and its nine-student 2014 economics class netted more than $130,000 in graduate school scholarships.

Hotshot prof: Mike Fox's students collaborated with a local elementary school to design an outdoor educational space and lesson plans.

UNIVERSITY OF NEW BRUNSWICK

Fredericton and Saint John

Students: 10,000

Cost: $7,100, $7,000 (Saint John)

While not a research heavyweight like McGill or Dalhousie, UNB is New Brunswick's top research university. Hot departments include business – the only one in Canada to offer a degree in e-commerce – and marine biology, which includes a 12-week field course. Despite its relatively small classes, UNB has mixed results on national student surveys. The historical campus on the Bay of Fundy, established in 1785, features Georgian architecture and is most beautiful when tree-lined boulevards turn red in fall.

Your typical classmate: Is entrepreneurial; UNB was named postsecondary institution of the year at the 2014 Startup Canada Awards.

This year: Professors and students protested austerity measures that they say prioritize administrative salaries over education quality.

ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY

Fredericton

Students: 2,400

Cost: $5,700

STU shares space and even a students' union with the University of New Brunswick, but offers a more intimate and affordable education. With few research commitments, faculty focus on teaching. Students report being very satisfied with STU's traditional liberal arts approach, which features small classes, classic literature and lots of discussion. However, STU students have the lowest graduation rate and the highest Canada Student Loan default rate in the province. A new program that will offer mentorship, training and internship opportunities may help students apply their education in the workplace.

Hotshot prof: Brad Cross, who was awarded the Association of Atlantic Universities Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013, takes his students to Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York, to study urban history.

This year: The school created a partnership with the city of Fredericton that will give arts students access to paid work experience.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

UNIVERSITY OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Charlottetown

Students: 4,200

Cost: $6,500

UPEI is doing something right. The university managed to increase its enrolment significantly over the past decade, even though the number of students in the Atlantic region fell. In particular, UPEI is succeeding in attracting students from other provinces and countries. Perhaps they come for UPEI's scholarship program, which is generous for such a small school. Charlottetown, with its great pubs and live music, is a culturally rich city and small enough that everyone knows everyone.

Students report: A supportive campus environment with ample access to professors, but UPEI struggles with low retention and graduation rates. Your typical classmate: Misses a lot of classes during the long PEI winter; the campus was closed due to snow at least once a month between December and April this year.

NOVA SCOTIA

ACADIA UNIVERSITY

Wolfville

Students: 4,300 students

Cost: $6,000 (N.S. Residents), or $7,000 (out of province)

Acadia offers a great liberal arts and sciences education in a quaint university town, where students outnumber permanent residents. This year, while students at other universities kvetched on "Confessions" Facebook pages (look them up), Acadia students set up a "Compliments" page, which contains messages like, "To the wonderful girls passing out chocolates in the library, thank you!" and "To the girl who wore the R2D2 dress to open mic last night, you are awesome!" This buck of the trend says a lot about Acadia's community.

Your typical classmate: Spends time helping others; 80 per cent of students volunteer.

Hotshot student: Alex MacLean started a clothing company with an $800 loan from his dad as a project in his Venture Creation class; the company sold more than 250,000 T-shirts and hoodies in a year.

CAPE BRETON UNIVERSITY

Sydney

Students: 3,400

Cost: $5,600 (N.S. residents), or $6,600 (out of province)

Students give CBU above-average ratings on national student surveys, especially when it comes to their interactions with professors. So the mystery remains: Why does the university suffer from the lowest graduation rate in Nova Scotia? Only 45 per cent of arts students graduate within seven years of

starting classes. Hot programs in engineering are designed to support Cape Breton's growing oil and gas industry.

Your typical classmate: Is from another country; 30 per cent of students are international, the result of CBU's recruitment campaign.

Students say: It's easy to connect with professors. "The biggest pro is small classes," says Moses Mallam, third-year business. "The biggest con is that there aren't enough co-op opportunities."

DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY

Halifax (main) and Truro

Students: 17,500

Cost: $6,600 (N.S. residents), $7,100 (out-of-province)

If you want to study at a world-renowned research university in the Atlantic region, Dalhousie is the place to be. The university is strong in the sciences; its earth and marine science department is recognized internationally as a leader. An innovative program allows undergrads from any faculty to simultaneously earn a minor in sustainability, which involves working on a community project. Like many research universities, Dalhousie struggles to create an engaging educational experience for its undergrads.

Hotshot prof: Shawna O'Hearn arranges opportunities for health students to work in local disadvantaged communities, as well as in Tanzania and Gambia.

This year: Graduate Peter Burbridge (BA '06, MBA '09) opened North Brewing, a Halifax microbrewery dedicated to Belgian-style ales.

UNIVERSITY OF KING'S COLLEGE

Halifax

Students: 1,200

Cost: $6,900 (N.S. residents), $7,900 (out-of-province)

King's is Dalhousie's eccentric, artsy cousin. The two institutions share a campus, but King's distinguishes itself with liberal arts programming in an intimate community that maintains its 18th-century roots. In the words of one student, King's has a reputation for being "the artsy hipster school." Others describe it as an inspiring and challenging introduction to the humanities.

Hotshot choirmaster: Paul Halley, an organist and director of music at King's chapel, has won five Grammy Awards.

Students say: The journalism program is fantastic. "I got a full-time job within two weeks of finishing my degree," says recent grad Dan Malone. "I have so much practical experience, I can do basically anything at a newspaper. I couldn't have been better prepared."

MOUNT SAINT VINCENT UNIVERSITY

Halifax

Students: 4,000

Cost: $5,900 (N.S. residents), $6,900 (out-of-province)

MSVU was founded by nuns in 1873 as a women's college. Its mission has evolved to promote accessible education for all, but today its student body is still overwhelmingly female. The school offers small classes and the largest distance education program in the province, which attracts working students who need flexibility. The campus, an eight-minute drive from downtown Halifax, overlooks the beautiful Bedford Basin, but is short on food options.

Your typical classmate: Is not straight out of high school; a large portion of the student body is older than 24 or transferred from another university.

Hotshot president: Ramona Lumpkin was awarded the Order of Canada on July 1, 2014, which marked her 16th anniversary of becoming a Canadian citizen.

PHOTO CAPTION:

NSCAD university: art and design specialization with access to Halifax's cultural scene.

[NOTE: In the print version, the NSCAD caption appears beneath the St. FX photo and vice versa.]

NOVA SCOTIA COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN UNIVERSITY

Halifax

Students: 950

Cost: $5,600 (N.S. residents), $6,800 (out-of-province)

NSCAD University's studios, film school and energy-efficient kilns are housed in heritage buildings in downtown Halifax. Students receive a broad introduction to visual arts during their first-year foundation studies program before specializing in programs from metalsmithing to art history to book arts. With a burgeoning cultural scene, several dozen art galleries and more taverns per capita than any other Canadian city, Halifax is an interesting place for emerging artists to develop.

Hotshot alumna: Paula Fairfield received her sixth Emmy nomination for sound editing on the television series Game of Thrones.

This year: The university decided to remain autonomous after exploring whether to merge with Dalhousie or Saint Mary's. In its decision, the board pledged to develop collaborations with Halifax universities, which should create new opportunities for NSCAD U students.

ST. FRANCIS XAVIER UNIVERSITY

Antigonish

Students: 4,800

Cost: $6,800 (N.S. Residents), or $7,800 (out of province)

Of all of the excellent liberal arts universities in Nova Scotia, St. FX is under-appreciated. While the school may not spend as much on its library or win as many faculty and student awards, its outcomes speak for themselves. St. FX boasts the highest retention and graduation rates in the province, and students report being very satisfied with their education. With nearly 40 per cent of students living in residence, campus is always lively. The iconic "X-Ring" worn by graduates is emblematic of St. FX's strong school spirit.

Hotshot prof: Jonathan Langdon leads an experiential development studies course that places senior students in summer internships with social change organizations, working in areas as diverse as municipal planning in Ottawa and community radio in Western Africa.

PHOTO CAPTION:

St. FX: students report being very satisfied with their education at this liberal arts university.

[NOTE: In the print version, the NSCAD caption appears beneath the St. FX photo and vice versa.]

SAINT MARY'S UNIVERSITY

Halifax

Students: 7,400

Cost: $6,100 (N.S. residents), $7,100 (out-of-province)

An early mover, SMU has been building ties with China since the 1980s. With 29 per cent of its student body coming from abroad, SMU has a head start on other Atlantic universities attempting to attract international students as the number of domestic students in the region decreases. Its Confucius Institute promotes Chinese language and culture. Despite being smaller than Dalhousie with less focus on research, SMU scored similarly low on measures of effective educational practice in a national student survey.

Your typical classmate: Is studying commerce; 47 per cent of students are enrolled in the Sobey School of Business.

This year: SMU co-hosted a major conference about conflict resolution; for more than a decade, SMU students studying peace have travelled to Belfast in Northern Ireland to work with children on conflict resolution strategies.

NEWFOUNDLAND

MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY OF NEWFOUNDLAND

St. John's

Students: 18,000 students

Cost: $3,000

MUN shines in programs and research related to the ocean. Students say that small classes, personable professors and the cheapest tuition in the country make MUN a great place to study. St. John's spirited nightlife makes socializing easy, even if campus can feel like an extension of high school. Rivalries between on-campus houses sometimes get out of hand (beware of flying eggs).

Students say: The campus doesn't live up to MUN's otherwise great education. "'80s architecture clashes with the beautiful brick buildings of Paton College," says Meghan McDonald, fifth-year Russian literature and language. "There is no green space whatsoever, but the weather in Newfoundland is daft, so why would we need green space, right?"

This year: MUN scientists began mapping the topography and plant life on the ocean floor of Smith's Sound using the university's autonomous underwater vehicle, a miniature submarine the size of a small car.

SIDEBAR:

TOP MARKS

Where are the best students?

Where do the recipients of one of Canada's most prestigious scholarships choose to spend their undergraduate years? We looked at where students who won TD Scholarships for Community Leadership between 2003 and 2013 studied.

1. McGill University (27)

2. University of Toronto (24)

3. Queen's University (17)

4. University of British Columbia and University of Western Ontario (12)

5. University of Alberta (10)

6. University of Ottawa (9)

7. Université de Montréal (8)

SOURCE: ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES OF CANADA

Where are the best teachers?

We looked at which universities were home to the most 3M national Teaching fellowship winners since the award began recognizing exceptional teaching in 1986.

1. University of Alberta (40)

2. University of Western Ontario (21)

3. University of Guelph and University of British Columbia (15)

4. McMaster University (14)

5. University of Toronto (13)

SOURCE: SOCIETY FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION CANADA'S TOP RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES

Canada's top research universities by the numbers

Will you get a chance to learn from Canada's best researchers? Where will you be likeliest to access exciting lab experiences? here are Canada's top 10 research universities ranked by amount of sponsored research revenue. We also included the number of active research chairs, an indication of where

Canada's leading researchers work.

1. University of Toronto − $1-billion+ (217)

2. University of British Columbia − $585-million (139)

3. Université de Montréal − $526-million (86)

4. McGill University − $484-million (138)

5. University of Alberta − $452-million (87)

6. McMaster University − $325-million (68)

7. Université de Laval − $303-million (74)

8. University of Ottawa − $302-million (66)

9. University of Calgary − $283-million (57)

10. University of Western Ontario − $241-million (57)

SOURCE: RESEARCH INFOSOURCE AND CANADA RESEARCH CHAIRS

/Erin Millar and Ash Kelly, with files from Colleen Kimmett

SIDEBAR:

Debt & defaults

We looked at how much the average student loan borrower racked up in federal student loans by the time they graduated. We also included default rates (percentage of loans in arrears for longer than 270 days), which are an indication of which graduates were struggling to repay their loans three years after graduating.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Highest average debt

1. University of British Columbia ($19,050)

2. University of Victoria ($19,048)

3. University of Northern British Columbia ($18,993)

Highest default rate

1. Kwantlen Polytechnic University (18%)

2. Emily Carr University of Art + Design (17%)

3. University of the Fraser Valley and Capilano University (16%)

PRAIRIES

Highest average debt

1. University of Saskatchewan ($18,219)

2. University of Regina ($17,106)

3. University of Calgary ($16,145)

Highest default rate

1. University of Winnipeg (16%)

2. MacEwan University (15%)

3. Mount Royal University (14%)

ONTARIO

Highest average debt

1. Queen's University ($18,882)

2. Trent University ($18,318)

3. University of Western Ontario ($18,254)

Highest default rate

1. OCAD University (18%)

2. Carleton University, Laurentian University and University of Windsor (15%)

3. Trent University (13%)

ATLANTIC CANADA

Highest average debt

1. Dalhousie University ($21,625)

2. University of Prince Edward Island ($21,490)

3. St. Francis Xavier University ($21,012)

Highest default rates

1. Saint Mary's University (18%)

2. St. Thomas University (17%)

3. Cape Breton University (15%)

NOTE: QUEBEC DOESN'T PARTICIPATE IN THE CANADA STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM

SOURCE: CANADA STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM

/Erin Millar and Ash Kelly, with files from Colleen Kimmett

SIDEBAR:

THE RELIGIOUS CHOICE

by Ash Kelly

When the B.C. government approved Trinity Western University's application to open a law school late last year, critics, including the Law Society of British Columbia, condemned the decision. At the heart of the debate? No law school charged with educating students about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they argued, could require students to sign TWU's now infamous covenant and pledge to abstain from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

Despite the controversy, the private Christian university in Langley, British Columbia, has a reputation for high- quality undergraduate education. So how does the covenant, which also outlaws alcohol, drugs and tobacco, impact student life? What is it like to go to a faith-based university in Canada?

TWU's bookstore shelves are stocked with titles like Can you be truly happy without God? and chapel or worship takes place every day. But students tell a more nuanced story. "What surprised me most about the issues people have with [the covenant], is that there's zero discrimination on this campus," says recent business administration graduate Evan Strelau. Others say the covenant's guidelines keep the campus safe and clean. (What other university has no cigarette butts hiding in the grass?)

While all faculty are required to be Christian, a small minority of students are of different faiths. "We have students from a variety of faith backgrounds: Buddhist students, Muslim students, atheist students," says Brian Kerr, director of undergraduate admissions.

Mustafa Demirci, a communications graduate and Turkish Muslim, says his classmates and professors were curious and respectful toward his religion. "I was definitely welcome to speak up," says Mr. Dimirci. "My profs would ask me, 'What do you think, Mustafa, because you have a different background?'" The soccer star, recruited to TWU on a scholarship, remembers his coach bringing him energy bars after Ramadan fasting and ordering vegetarian pizza, so that he'd have an alternative to pepperoni.

So how do a couple of thousand college kids keep themselves entertained within the confines of imposed prohibition? Cody Friesen, a fourth-year acting student and president of TWU's student association, says the alcohol-free environment doesn't stop students from partying at barbeques, talent shows and comedy improv nights. As it turns out, TWU is no Footloose. Laughing, Mr. Friesen confirms: "Boys and girls are even allowed to dance together."

Students considering other faith-based schools face similar issues.

/with files from Erin Millar

Other degree-granting Christian universities and fast facts

TRINITY WESTERN UNIVERSITY

Langley, British Columbia

Students: 4,000

Cost: $22,260

Trinity ranked second in Canada on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in the area of enriching educational experience.

AMBROSE UNIVERSITY

Calgary, Alberta

Students: 800

Cost: $10,500

Ambrose's men's and women's volleyball teams moved up a division this year, and the campus has been expanded to accommodate growth.

THE KING'S UNIVERSITY

Edmonton, Alberta

Students: 700

Cost: $11,593

King's student researchers contributed to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

CANADIAN MENNONITE UNIVERSITY

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Students: 618

Cost: $7,000

Despite its name, only 46 per cent of students identify as Mennonite; more than half come from other Christian backgrounds, including Catholic, United and Lutheran.

PROVIDENCE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE

Otterburne, Manitoba

Students: 500

Cost: $8,250

Canada's smallest Christian university offers 20 undergraduate programs, including aviation, community development studies and social work.

TYNDALE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE

Toronto, Ontario

Students: 1,200

Cost: $15,736

Students say Tyndale has a supportive environment, but they ranked it low on NSSE in the area of active and collaborative learning.

REDEEMER UNIVERSITY COLLEGE

Ancaster, Ontario

Students: 900

Cost: $15,700

Redeemer's unique education program boasts small class sizes, high employment rates and the ability to earn a BA or a B.Sc. at the same time as a B.Ed.

CRANDALL UNIVERSITY

Moncton, New Brunswick

Students: 800

Cost: $8,835

Ongoing controversy over the university's policy against hiring gay employees has pulled attention away from the $24-million in campus upgrades.

With files from Colleen Kimmett

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