It was at Queen’s University, after the war, that my grandparents met for the second time. They had been summer sweethearts in Portland, Ont.: his father was a boatbuilder who drove the water taxi, ferrying my grandmother’s family to their cottage on Big Rideau Lake, and there the two had courted. But in 1915, when he headed off to war, she headed off to Queen’s. Three years later, he joined her there—in his uniform—and they fell in love again.
At least, that was the way she told it. There were corny jokes, shared with her grandchildren: how she, Jean Rose, had arrived at Queen’s and been introduced to her roommate”—Jean Fell. When it came time to choose a university, there was no question of choice: my grandmother dug out her
leather-bound volume of Robert Browning and a blanket—in “Queen’s college colors.” But that was a simpler time, when a student with good marks still had the luxury of following a family tradition. In the fall of 1993, life is more complicated. At a time when unemployment seems inversely proportionate to the years spent in school, good students are playing musical chairs, scrambling for the best seats. Even those with marks in the high 80s are having to compromise.
And yet, even in an age of soaring tuition and diminished expectations, certain traditions endure in the world of learning.
Small classes are still the best—ones where
Certain Traditions Should Endure In The World Of Learning
a student can raise a hand and be heard, learn to debate, analyse, think. And to test that thinking, it still helps to have another smart student on your left or your right, and a professor standing close enough to make a difference. In the life of the undergraduate, these are the basics, the ones every student deserves.
And so, in that belief, Maclean’s presents its third annual ranking of Canadian universities. This year’s survey, including a record 51 universities, provides a comprehensive look at what is being offered to the undergraduate across Canada. Here is the road map to the small classes, the strong students, the accessible professors.
Ultimately, the Maclean’s survey is a testament to the universities themselves. By opening their own books for
scrutiny—answering questions on faculty, libraries, average entering grade—they are setting a brave example in public accountability.
And there is wisdom in their decision. In these tough times, greater accountability paves the way to greater public trust. As American ranking expert David Webster points out, a community comfortable with exploring the origins of the universe should have no trouble reporting the size of its firstyear classes. In doing so, these schools are preserving a tradition of excellence. For the undergraduate, choosing a university need no longer be an educated guess.
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