THE World University Ranking, like Maclean’s and QS’, uses multiple variables in its methodology to determine its annual ranking. Quality of teaching, research, and citations account for 90 per cent of the ranking’s weight, while international outlook and industry income are worth ten per cent combined. THE collects this information through an independent audit administered by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Christopher Manfredi expressed his satisfaction with the ranking but pointed out that it has little real impact on McGill’s priorities like improving the university’s financial situation. In the released budget book for the Fiscal Year 2018, the report states that McGill University has a long term debt of $985.2 million.
“We’re pleased to hold our position despite financial difficulties,” Manfredi said. “The ranking does not affect [grants and other forms of funding] directly. The province does not consider the rankings [when determining funding].”
McGill ranked behind two other major Canadian universities: University of British Columbia (UBC) and University of Toronto (UoT). UBC improved their ranking by six spots from 40th in 2017 to 34th in 2018, while UoT’s ranking moved up slightly from the 24th to the 22nd spot.
In an email to The McGill Tribune, THE reporter Ellie Bothwell wrote about how UBC was able to improve its position.
“[UBC had] an improved score for its industry income, [because UBC] received more industry income per academic staff, a higher proportion of doctorates awarded compared to bachelors awarded, a greater amount of research income and a stronger research influence, [and] more citations,” Bothwell wrote.
Though rankings may have little effect on McGill’s provincial funding, they do affect admissions. Prospective students and their families frequently consider rankings in deciding which universities to apply for, according to McGill Interim Executive Director of Enrolment Services Jocelyne Younan. In an email to theTribune, Younan explained how a higher ranking leads to more students applying, thus lowering the ratio of admitted students.
“When it comes to accepting an offer of admission, many other factors influence [students’] decisions and these will vary greatly,” Younan wrote. “Cost of education and cost of living, location, safety, internships, and exchange opportunities are common factors we hear from students.”
Younan said she finds McGill’s placement on the THE 2018 World University Ranking acceptable.
“Different rankings measure different things, and we are always happy to be ranked highly,” Younan wrote. “The data [is] probably as objective as [it] can be, so, from that standpoint, plus the fact that universities rarely make large moves up or down the scale suggest that the portraits of the different universities are reasonably accurate.”
Though a plethora of factors are calculated in any university ranking system, it’s difficult for any ranking to accurately measure the lived experiences of students. SSMU Vice-President University Affairs Isabelle Oke noted that rankings like THE's encompass solely an outsider’s perspective on the institution.
“I think there is a limit about what you can understand about any given campus, unless you spend a lot of time in the environment,” Oke said. “So when I see these rankings that are quantifiable, but I feel [that] there is a lot about McGill culture that isn’t necessarily represented in that way.”