Western, Canada slip in global university rankings

Western shadowed many of its fellow Canadian universities in dropping down the 2019 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University rankings, released Wednesday. In total, 17 of Canada’s 26 institutions dropped.

This year, Western found itself ranked No. 214 among top universities around the globe. The university dropped from No. 201 in 2018. The highest Western has ever ranked was No. 157 in 2011-12.

The University of Toronto was the highest ranking Canadian institution at No. 28 and is followed by McGill University (No. 33). Joining them in the Top 200 were the University of British Columbia (No. 47), University of Alberta (No. 109), McMaster University (No. 146), Université de Montréal (No. 149), and University of Waterloo at (No. 163).

Six of Canada’s ranked universities remained stable, while only three improved.

According to QS, research impact at Canadian institutions is stagnating relative to global competitors, as 21 of 26 scores for Citations per Faculty fell. This trend in relative research output and impact was mirrored by Canada’s performance in the Academic Reputation measure; 24 of Canada’s 26 ranked institutions saw drops in the Academic Reputation indicator.

“Canadian institutions have increased their research output by an average of 7.3 per cent and attracted an average of 13.2-per cent more citations compared to last year’s edition,” explained Ben Sowter, QS Research Director. “Whilst this sounds promising, these growth numbers are significantly lower than the global averages of 12.1 per cent and 22.2 per cent.

“Citations performance and Academic Reputation performance are linked. Respondents are far more likely to nominate institutions in the survey if they have read and referenced their outputs in the pursuit of their research. Vying for that academic attention is an increasingly competitive endeavour and our analysis suggests that Canada has not been keeping pace.”

Alex Usher, President of Higher Education Strategy Associates, echoed those sentiments. “Canada’s research output is increasing, but by less than the global average. Canada hasn’t fetishized research output the way other countries have. And, depending on the years one uses for comparisons, one could make a pretty good argument there has been an erosion of funding at our top institutions.

“The problem with the latter argument, unfortunately, is the evidence is not very good with respect to linking money to increased production. So one can note this, but I don’t think it’s an especially strong argument. I would be more inclined to attribute this to Canadian institutions not being quite as highly motivated as some other countries to achieve these kinds of goals. We’re good, but not great, and that’s our comfort zone.”

However, there was also evidence Canada remained highly attractive to international students. The International Student Ratio indicator showed Canadian performance is most resilient, with 13 of 26 improving their relative score.

Globally, Massachusetts Institute of Technology is named the world’s best university for a record-breaking seventh consecutive year.