McGill remains on top of Maclean’s University Rankings for 2018

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

McGill again topped Maclean’s Magazine University Ranking in 2018 and has retained the number one spot for the past 13 years. Wikipedia Commnons

It is lucky number 13 for McGill University, as the Montreal school tops Maclean’s Magazine University Ranking in 2018 for the 13th straight year. Maclean’s Magazine released their 2018 University Ranking on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, again giving Canada’s most prestigious university their top honors. Simon Fraser University remained number one in the Comprehensive category for the fourth year in a row, while the Mount Allison University regained the top spot in the Primarily Undergraduate category. The University of Toronto took the №1 spot in the reputation survey again this year, and Bishop’s University is the Top School by Student Satisfaction.

The most significant of the Maclean’s ranking lists is their Medical/Doctoral category, focusing on the major research universities. Maclean’s explains universities in this category include “a medical school and a wide range of research and Ph.D. programs.” McGill again topped the list this year and has retained the number one spot for the past 13 years. Maclean’s boasts McGill’s illustrious alumni of “change-makers,” its doctorate programs, and ‘groundbreaking and innovative” research.

Maclean’s notes, McGill “has also produced more Rhodes Scholars (142) and Nobel laureates (12) than any other university in Canada.” McGill has an addition being located in Montreal, the QS World University Rankings the best student city in the world for 2017. McGill was able to beat the competition despite funding problems that have been plaguing the university in the past couple of years. McGill also was in the bottom quarter of universities ranked when it came to “per-student operating budget,” as the McGill Reported noted. McGill’s libraries, however, were lauded for their “stellar performance.”

The top six of the category remained the same for the second year in third year in a row with Toronto in second, UBC in third, followed by Queen’s in fourth, Alberta in fifth and McMaster Universities in sixth place. There was, however, a lot of movement in the last four spots of the top 10. Western Ontario moved up to seventh after tying for eighth last year. Dalhousie moved down again from seventh back to eighth. Ottawa moved down one again back to tie for ninth place this time with the University of Calgary, who was in last year’s tenth place position.

Maclean’s explains the reason for their three main ranking lists saying they “place universities into three categories to recognize the differences in levels of research funding, the diversity of offerings and the breadth and depth of graduate and professional programs.” McGill has a reputation as the Harvard of the North and rightfully keeps its spot as the nation’s best at the top of the Medical Doctoral category.

McGill’s Principal Suzanne Fortier was pleased with Maclean’s ranking results. Fortier issued a statement saying, “We are delighted to see McGill recognized once again as Canada’s leading university according to the Maclean’s yardstick. All members of our McGill community can take pride in this accomplishment. I salute our alumni for the solid foundation of excellence they have built in our great university and congratulate all the students, professors and staff for their commitment to the values of McGill.”

The Comprehensive category is described as universities “with significant research, undergraduate, and graduate programs as well as professional schools,” but are not as research focused, and do not have Medical schools. This year Simon Fraser University again topped the category for “the fourth year in a row” and now 14 times in the ranking’s history. Only three other schools have ever topped the comprehensive category, the University of Victoria, which moves up again to the second place, University of Waterloo, who again drops one back to third place. The University of Guelph remains in fourth place and Carleton University stays at fifth place.

There was a lot of movement in the bottom half of the top ten. Although the University of New Brunswick remains in sixth place, it is now tied with Wilfrid Laurier University, which has moved up three from ninth. Both Memorial and York University, who last year had been tied for seventh place moved down and are now tied for eighth. While Concordia stays at tenth place rounding out the top ten.

The Primarily Undergraduate category features universities who focus on their undergraduate program. The biggest changes in this year’s rankings come from the primarily undergraduate category. Mount Allison University catapults back to the top moving up one. Previously Mount Allison topped the list for eight years until UNB dethroned the school. The University of Northern British Columbia (UNB) now trades places with Mount Allison and moves down to the second spot after two years assuming the top position. Trent and Lethbridge Universities trade places as well, with Trent moving up one to third and Lethbridge down one to fourth.

The middle of the top ten remained the same as last year. Acadia, St. Francis Xavier, and Saint Mary’s Universities each stayed in the fifth, sixth and seventh positions respectively, that they were in last year. Two universities reentered the top ten after a year hiatus, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Lakehead University where both last year tied for the eleventh spot, now they moved up, UOIT to eighth and Lakehead into the ninth slot. Rounding out the top ten is the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), who drops two spots to tenth.

Macleans’ rankings do not have drastic changes from year to year because of the methodology they use, relying on as the magazine explains, “research funding and university spending don’t vary wildly from year to year, and student and faculty awards, as well as publications and citations, are counted over a five-year period. Twelve of the 14 ranking indicators are derived from data from third-party sources, such as the three major federal granting councils (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR) and Statistics Canada. The other two indicators are based on a reputational survey and a student survey. These surveys are subjective, and people criticize them-or praise them-for that very reason.”

The Maclean’s Reputation Ranking is the most controversial list in their annual rankings, because it is subjective, taking their results from a survey completed by “university faculty and senior administrators, high school guidance counselors, and a variety of businesspeople.” The list looks at the universities’ quality and innovation. This year, Maclean’s assembled one list, the National reputational ranking with all 49 universities represented from the Primarily Undergraduate, Comprehensive and Medical/Doctoral categories.

The national reputation ranking is similar to last year’s Best Overall Reputation ranking. Maclean’s Reputation Survey has the University of Toronto again on top, followed by Waterloo remaining in second, then the University of British Columbia staying third, and McGill remains in fourth. Rounding out the top five is the University of Alberta. Maclean’s still has separate reputation surveys for each category under their overall lists. The University of Toronto is also the top under the Medical/Doctoral categories, the University of Waterloo tops the Comprehensive category, while Mount Allison tops the Primarily Undergraduate reputation survey.

Maclean’s shook up their rankings two years when they added a student survey called “Students Favorite Schools.” Since then the name has changed to the Student Satisfaction survey and is now combined to rank the schools in all the three categories. This year Bishop’s University topped the list, last year Bishop’s was the student’s chosen school in the Primarily Undergraduate category. Each category still maintains their individual ranking, under their category’s overall ranking. This year, the top Medical/Doctoral school among students was the Université de Sherbrooke, who was number 13 in their category overall, Wilfrid Laurier was the top comprehensive school, but tied for sixth in their category, and Bishop’s was also the top choice also in the Primarily Undergraduate category, although it was only tied for eleventh in its category.

Maclean’s three major rankings Medical Doctoral, Comprehensive, and Primarily Undergraduate use the same methodology to determine the lists’ rankings. There are six performance indicators; students and classes account for 20 percent of the grade, Faculty also 20 percent, Resources account for 12 percent, Student Support at 13 percent, Library at 15 percent, and Reputation weigh heavily at 20 percent.

Here is Maclean’s top 10 in their Medical/Doctoral category and includes the university’s 2017 positions:

1 McGill [1]
1 Toronto [2]
3 UBC [3]
4 Queen’s [4]
5 Alberta [5]
6 McMaster [6]
7 Western [*8]
8 Dalhousie [7]
*9 Calgary [10]
*9 Ottawa [*8]

Comprehensive category’s top 10:

1 Simon Fraser [1]
2 Victoria [3]
3 Waterloo [2]
4 Guelph [4]
5 Carleton [5]
*6 New Brunswick [6]
*6 Wilfrid Laurier [9]
*8 Memorial [*7]
*8 York [*7]
10 Concordia [10]

Primarily Undergraduate category’s top 10:

1 Mount Allison [2]
2 UNBC [1]
3 Trent [4]
4 Lethbridge [3]
5 Acadia [5]
6 St. Francis Xavier [6]
7 Saint Mary’s [7]
8 UOIT [*11]
9 Lakehead [*11]
10 UPEI [8]

National reputational ranking top 10:

1 Toronto [1]
2 Waterloo [2]
3 UBC [3]
4 McGill [4]
5 Alberta [5]
6 McMaster [7]
7 Western [8]
8 Queen’s [6]
9 Simon Fraser [10]
10 Calgary

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.