Hard to take rankings seriously

Last week, The Globe and Mail released its 2006 University Report Card magazine, with rankings based on student satisfaction. Maclean’s magazines university issue comes out today.

Although the articles are informative, realistically, most people buy these magazines for the rankings. Unfortunately, the surveys are only based on student opinion and cannot be looked at as objective. Most of the students have only attended one school, so their experiences are limited. Although opinions are useful when used qualitatively, once a number (or in this case a letter grade) is attached, it’s hard not to be skeptical.

Although rankings are irrelevant if a student already has a top choice school, they can provide a different perspective for those who would otherwise only see the administration-approved pamphlets and the overly exuberant tour guides. But whether a school is “right” for an individual cannot be found in any magazine, or ranking system done. No single tool should be the sole-determinant of choosing one’s university or post-graduate program, but these rankings can’t do any harm, as long as they are approached properly.

In the end, it’s hard to take these media publications too seriously as they are motivated by profit—The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s publish the rankings because they sell. Although interesting to read, it’s impossible to gauge how well a student will fit into a particular university community based only on opinion-based rankings. As a side note: Queen’s scored low in food services and gym equipment, as expected.

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