Today I read what was styled as a good-news story, but actually turned out to be a bad story or, at least, a so-so one for Canada’s and especially Ontario’s future generations who seek a university education. The story: QMI Agency reports that nine Canadian universities are on a list of the top 200 in the world.
Our top university, University of Toronto, heads the Canadian contingent in 17th position on the annual list released by U.K.-based Times Higher Education (THE). First place went to Harvard University, one of the 72 U.S. institutions in the top 200.
The next Canadian schools in line were University of British Columbia and McGill University at 30th and 35th respectively.
McMaster in Hamilton was the only other of our Ontario Universities to make the list—it ranked 93rd—while the University of Alberta came in at 127th followed closely by University of Victoria at 130th. Rounding out Canada’s contribution to the world of higher education was University of Montreal at 138th, Dalhousie University at 193rd and Simon Fraser University in B.C. at 199th.
Rather a mediocre showing wouldn’t you say?
Canada is a G8 nation with aspirations to be a member of the United Nations’ 15-seat Security Council. This is a big deal in my estimation and it’s our responsibility to be worthy of our membership in these important and weighty world bodies. These are the sorts of things that make many Canadians and others believe we hit above our weight internationally. Only a superb, top-notch education system can keep us solidly in the ranks of first-rate nations.
When more than one-third of our population lives in a province that can only claim two Universities in the top 200, we begin to see some of the source of our problem. Only with governments who value excellence—indeed treasure it—will we see a truly outstanding system of higher education in our province and country. And, unfortunately, we’ve had a succession of mediocre governments ruling Ontario, culminating in arguably the most lackluster of the past quarter century. Yes, that’s your bunch, Mr. McGuinty.
The Harris governments did much to put Ontario back on it fiscal feet in the late 1990s, but in those days higher education was not at the very top as a priority—nor has it been so since. It’s all too easy to count on the brain-drain to entice PhDs from other countries to immigrate to Canada and to send our best scholars to elite universities in the United States and abroad.
Perhaps its our egalitarian nature that undervalues excellence. What a pity, eh?