Maclean's Bombs Statistics, put on Academic Probation

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Maclean’s Bombs Statistics, put on Academic Probation

macleansuniversityrankings.jpgAlong with ten other universities across the country, including Dalhousie, McMaster, and UBC, the University of Toronto has bowed out of participating in Maclean’s annual university rankings survey. They cite Macleans’ “misuse of data in establishing a spurious “ranking” table that is, at best, useless and, at worst, misleading to students wishing to make a thorough choice about the university they wish to attend.” Strong words from U of T, which consistently ranks on top of the rankings but has been threatening this move for a while.
In an open letter co-signed by all eleven presidents, they identify two key faults with Maclean’s system:

  1. That they group all of a university’s programs together to determine their statistics, resulting in generalized numbers that are not helpful to students.
  2. That they rely too heavily on inaccurate student survey data (based both on low response rates and that they do not survey enough different types of university students) and reputational survey data (also with very low response rates).

The letter concludes with a nice academic slap in the face: “We do find it ironic that universities are being asked to subsidize and legitimize this flawed methodology, when many faculty, staff and students at our institutions are dedicated in their research to ensuring that data are collected rigorously and analyzed meticulously.” Taste the irony, Maclean’s.
For many students, the guide is crucial for choosing universities, and high school guidance offices give out the report like it’s free mints. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes next year.

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