The annual Maclean's ranking of Canadian universities is due on the newstands soon. Do you think the ranking is a valuable exercise? Why or why not?

Karim Bardeesy, President of the Arts Undergraduate Students' Society

I don't think prospective students should use it to help them choose a university to attend  collecting aggregate level data like that often obscures the nuanced qualities and vices of each institution. On the other hand, it's probably a useful tool for self-assessment by universities themselves, especially in an environment in which universities are now "competing" for students. I think it's most valuable as a cultural phenomenonÉ Maclean's makes lots of money, and it gives us at university something to gossip about.

Liz Gomery, Vice-President (University Affairs) of the Students' Society

I think the Maclean's ranking of Canadian universities is severely flawed in the markers it uses for measuring the quality of our institutions. It makes comparisons between universities where comparisons are impossible to make, without even considering some of the individual strengths of the universities, such as specific departments or programs. I think it's important to hold universities accountable for the quality of education they provide, but I don't think that Maclean's does that with its current ranking system. People attach too much importance to the survey and instead of making real efforts to improve the quality of the institution, universities try to comply with what Maclean's dictates as quality.

Alan Shaver, Dean of Science

Important yes, valuable maybe. We tend to do well in the rankings and that's been to our benefit. It's one of the many factors that has helped us build our strong reputation and that's important because it helps draw great students and professors and the resources and wherewithal to make an impact on the world. Our job would be much more difficult if we did not have such a great reputation. But reputation is not an end in itself and we know that sometimes great reputations are not always justified (except for McGill's!). It would be a great error to become slaves to a compliance culture dominated by a rankings exercise of this kind. We must push ourselves to invent new ways to excel in the future even at the risk of our reputation today. The university that lives by the Maclean's survey must sooner or later die by the survey.

Michael Smith, Professor of Sociology

People make judgements about the relative quality of universities all the time. It's better that those judgements be informed. So I think that putting together information on library resources, staff-student ratios, and so on, is worthwhile. The problem is the aggregate ranking. It doesn't mean very much because there's no possibility of agreement on how to weight the different components that are ranked. Besides, what does an overall university ranking mean to a student? What matters to them is the quality of their part of the university.