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Rankings versus quality

Each year, we receive inquiries from Cap students and employees asking why we’re not in Maclean’s annual university rankings issue. Following is a brief explanation on why we have chosen not to participate. In addition, we suggest you take a moment to visit Cap’s YouTube channel and watch the presentations made in March 2011 by Dr. Bulcroft, Dr. Snodgrass and Dr. DiPuma on The Three R’s of Post-Secondary Education: Rankings, Reputation and Reality. These short videos provide a great overview on where Cap stands on these matters and on how our preference is to focus on quality rather than on rankings.

Maclean’s Annual University Rankings
In spring 2010, Capilano University participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement. Our participation would allow us to begin to further develop a body of information that would help guide the development and improvement of our baccalaureate programs. Information from NSSE is only a small part of the information that Capilano regularly collects to ensure continuous program improvement and institutional performance.

When Capilano participated in the 2010 NSSE survey, relatively few students were enroled in a limited number of four-year degree programs. We nonetheless felt that the information collected would help inform our internal planning processes. Capilano University joined with several other western Canadian institutions to form a consortium of new post-secondary institutions participating in NSSE. As a new university with a new and specialized provincial mandate, our concerns were with defining our unique mission as a learner-centred institution dedicated to providing quality educational opportunities that develop students for life. We were less concerned with our ranking among all the institutions collecting NSSE data, and we were certainly less concerned with competing for position than with developing quality programs.

When Capilano received our NSSE results we noted that we performed above the benchmarks and that our results were consistent with results demonstrated among the consortium members. We also noted, however, that our response rate for this survey was low – much lower than the response rates for the western Canadian consortium members – and responses were skewed to particular programs and sub-populations. We could not say with a comfortable degree of certainty that the results represented the students who enroled in our baccalaureate degree programs or that they represent all of our four-year programs. Because we could not say with statistical certainty how our students truly scored on the NSSE measures, we responsibly declined to provide Maclean’s with our survey results. 

It is unfortunate that Maclean’s elected to post Capilano’s results in a way that causes our stakeholders to question the quality of the programs we provide. Clearly, our internal indicators of student engagement and success show that Capilano University is in very good standing with our peer institutions, and our reasons for conducting assessments, such as NSSE, is to ensure that we will continue to meet the needs of our students and benchmark high performance standards.

The Globe and Mail’s Canadian University Report
The Globe and Mail’s recently published report on Canadian Universities shines a favourable light on Capilano University in its editorial section. We are not included in its annual survey, because we are not currently a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada.


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