SPECIAL REPORT

REACH FOR THE STARS

Montreal’s McGill shows that good research and a commitment to teaching can coexist

BRUCE WALLACE November 9 1992
SPECIAL REPORT

REACH FOR THE STARS

Montreal’s McGill shows that good research and a commitment to teaching can coexist

BRUCE WALLACE November 9 1992

REACH FOR THE STARS

SPECIAL REPORT

Montreal’s McGill shows that good research and a commitment to teaching can coexist

David Johnston was in London, England, when he learned that McGill University had finished at the top of its category in the Maclean’s rankings. The McGill principal was accompanying the school’s award-winning jazz ensemble on its European tour, which included performances in Paris, Dublin and at London’s celebrated Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square. But Johnston was also on a world swing of his own. From London he flew to Alexandria, Egypt, where he discussed plans with the Egyptian government for the third phase of a $2 5-million agricultural development project run by McGill’s Macdonald College. “The next century offers great promise to those universities that can reach out beyond their borders and become great international institutions,” said Johnston, whose school won in last year’s ranking of arts and science faculties and this year was rated best overall among universities with major doctoral and medical programs. “That’s why we believe so strongly that McGill should be thrusting itself into the world.” (The winners in the other two categories are profiled on the following pages.)

With a century-and-a-half of history, McGill is one of the few Canadian universities to have developed a significant international profile. And in Canada, McGill’s reputation for excellence helps it attract the highest percentage of out-of-province students of any school in its category. But the Montreal university scaled the Maclean ’s rankings largely for two other reasons. The data showed that students benefit from small class sizes and the emphasis that McGill places on getting its top faculty

members—professors and administrators alike—to teach. But the school still attracts bountiful research grants in both the sciences and the humanities. Johnston maintains that McGill’s success disproves the widely held notion that excellent undergraduate teaching and advanced research cannot coexist. “It is a false dichotomy,” said the mild-mannered Johnston. “At McGill, we have to take pride in research and teaching if we are to succeed.” That mix has always been part of McGill’s culture. And although many of its most famous professors, from humorist Stephen Leacock to novelist Hugh MacLennan, taught in the Faculty of Arts, the school has boasted a succession of prominent scientists since its earliest days. William Dawson, hired as McGill’s principal in 1855 when livestock still roamed the campus on the slopes of Mount Royal, was a renowned natural scientist whose works were cited by Charles Darwin. Dawson taught geology and palaeontology at McGill for 38 years. And McGill’s Montreal Medical Institution was already a prominent school when William (later Sir William) Osier graduated in 1872. Osier then taught at McGill for a decade and went on to become one of the leading medical figures of his time. When he published The Principles and Practice of Medicine in 1892, which remained the textbook on clinical medicine for more than 30 years, he dedicated it in part to his own teachers at McGill.

Osier’s legacy is still evident on campus a century later: his personal collection of rare medical books is on display in a Victorian reading room, and behind a bust of the man himself lie his ashes. The tradition of conducting leadingedge research has been handed down from Osier through such famous scientists as physicist Ernest Rutherford and neurologist Wilder Penfield. The list also includes such renegade researchers as psychiatrist Ewen Cameron, who conducted experiments with LSD for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and ballistics expert Gerald Bull, who built the world’s biggest guns for some of the world’s most brutal dictators, including Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Today, the university’s most celebrated professors still teach undergraduate classes: one of three lecturers in introductory political philosophy is Charles Taylor, an internationally respected expert on G.W.F. Hegel.

Maclean’s has expanded its ranking this year to include more than 20 measures of excellence in six broad groupings: Student Body (20 per cent of the total score), Classes (18 percent), Faculty (20 percent), Finances (10 percent), Library (12 per cent) and Reputation (20 per cent). The rankings on the following pages compare universities in three distinct groups: Medical/Doctoral universities, with a major commitment to PhD programs; Comprehensive institutions with significant research activity and course breadth; and universities that are Primarily Undergraduate.

For a full description of the methodology, please see page 30.

MEDICAL/ STUDENT BODY CLASSE! DOCTORAL Overall entering Average with Proportion 75% or Proportion who province Out of national InterStudent awards class Median size: Class first sizes: and Ranking UNIVERSITIES grade higher graduate (first year) (graduate) first year second year level McGILL 1 2 1* 3 1 4 3 1 2 TORONTO 2 4 8 1 6 8 4 2 5 QUEENS 3 1 1* 10 3 12 2 10* 11 UBC 4 3 3 11 5 2 6 3* 8 McMASTER 5 5 5 14* 14 9 7 8* 13* DALHOUSIE 6 7 6* 6 2 11 9 10* 10 MONTREAL 7 12 12 4 7 13 1 13 3 OTTAWA 8 9 13 5 4 10 8 5 7 ALBERTA 9 8 9 9 10 3 11 3* 6 WESTERN 10 6 6* 7 11 14* 13 10* 9 CALGARY 11 10 11 14* 12 14* 15 8* 13* SHERBROOKE 12 11 4 2 15 7 12 7 1 SASKATCHEWAN 13 14 10 13 13 1 14 6 4 LAVAL 14 13 14 8 9 6 5 14* 13* MANITOBA 15 15 15 12 8 5 10 14* 12

‘marks a tie.

Beginning next semester, John McCallum will also spend some of his much-sought-after time in a classroom. McGill’s newly appointed dean of arts is a highly regarded economist, who headed the C. D. Howe Institute’s studies last year into the costs of Quebec separatism. “I’d have a lot less to bring to my class if I had just been teaching and had not done any research for the past few years,” said McCallum.“There are universities where teaching is downgraded in favor of research. But here, even the best researchers

take their teaching seriously.”

Even McGill’s promoters admit that, as the competition for scarce research funds intensifies, it has experienced increasing difficulty in attracting—and keeping on staff—highcalibre researchers. Johnston cites the defection of Nobel laureate David Hubei, who was lured away to Johns Hopkins in 1954, and now teaches at Harvard. But, despite a budget deficit that reached almost $80 million last year, McCallum argues that McGill’s magic still conjures a deep and abiding loyalty from many of its faculty members. “There are a lot of people at this university who could make more money elsewhere, but they stay,” said McCallum. “Maybe it’s the

siege mentality created by Quebec’s political situation, or maybe it’s because of the school’s deep history and traditions, or maybe it’s just because Montreal is such a great city, but there is a strong sense of unity and loyalty to the

school.” That spirit obviously bears rich, enduring rewards for McGill’s students and teachers alike.

BRUCE WALLACE in Montreal

FACULTY FINANCES LIBRARY REPUTATION Faculty Awards per Humanities Medical/ Scholarships Student Holdings Acquisitions Expenses Alumni Reputational with PhD full-time grants science budget & bursaries services per student support survey faculty grants (percentage ( 'percentage of budget) 3 4 3 1 2 7 15 9 13 13 1 4 4 1 11 4 8 3 5* 1 10* 1 6 2 7 3 9 10 11 2 4 6 5 2 3 1 1* 8 4 2 5 6 11* 4 10* 7 14* 6 6 12 1 7 6 12* 9 11 4 5* 8 3 10 10 10 14 10 1 13* 8 1 10 4 10 13 2 2 3 13 12* 11* 13 12 12 10 5 1* 7 8 5 1 10 2 7 9 11 14* 11 8 6 5 6 4 4 13* 2 8 8* 12 8 9 11 12 13 7 11 1 10 7 4 11 7 5 9 7 8 9 8 3 3 6 5* 5 12 14 14 14 12 15 15 8 14 2 14 2 13 15 15 15 11 12 5 7 5 3 3 9 14 12 5 6 9 3 9 10 15 14 15 7 9 11 13 13 15 14 14 5* 12 15 8* 13 15

TOP MARKS The following rankings are based on responses to mailed surveys by 2,000 senior university officials, fellows of The Royal Society of Canada, heads of corporations and senior public officials across Canada:

HIGHEST QUALITY LEADERS OF TOMORROW 1. Toronto 1. Queen’s 2. Queen’s 2. Toronto 3. McGill 3. McMaster 4. UBC 4. McGill 5. McMaster 5. Montréal MOST INNOVATIVE BEST OVERALL 1. Queen’s 1. Queen’s 2. McMaster 2. Toronto 3. Toronto 3. McMaster 4. McGill 4. McGill 5. Dalhousie 5. Montréal