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Student view

If it ain’t broke, you can still fix it

by Jillian Terry

Earlier this month, Maclean’s released its annual Canadian university rankings, an anticipated event where university administrators across the country wait anxiously to see how their school stacks up against the competition.

Annual rankings such as those by Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, and the London Times are important – they’re easily accessible, trustworthy, and give prospective students a glimpse into the quality of education and student life at post-secondary institutions across Canada. It logically follows that universities would make a concerted effort each year to improve their rankings in specific categories, leading to a better overall ranking.

This year, Memorial came in fifth overall out of 11 schools listed in the comprehensive university category. The University of Waterloo has come out at the top of the pack for the majority of the Maclean’s rankings that began in 1992. Similarly, Memorial’s fifth-place showing isn’t at all new, having been in that spot consecutively for at least the last seven years.

Now don’t get me wrong – fifth place is nothing to scoff about. Being able to say that Memorial is one of the top five comprehensive universities in this country is undoubtedly a noteworthy achievement. What is a little disappointing is our lack of improvement, which I’m sure is a source of frustration for Memorial administration, faculty, and students alike.

As a full-time on-campus undergraduate student here since the fall of 2005, I’ve seen noticeable ameliorations and upgrades to the facilities and services of this university in just three short years.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a Canadian post-secondary institution deserving of first-place ranking in Maclean’s magazine.

It is no doubt a slow and arduous journey to the top, one that is fuelled in large part by budgetary allowances – which is precisely why now, after almost a decade in fifth place, Memorial should finally begin focusing more heavily on how this university ranks among its competitors. Outside the release of this year’s Maclean’s rankings, this month also saw the arrival of the announcement that Newfoundland and Labrador is officially a have province. In the weeks since the announcement was made, there have been hundreds of debates and discussions on talk radio shows, in editorials, and around lunchroom tables about where this province’s newfound wealth should go.

In my eyes, Memorial’s consistent fifth-place ranking by Maclean’s serves as important evidence as to why a substantial part of that money should help fund the university.

Retention is one of the major roadblocks to Memorial’s improvement in the Maclean’s rankings, and the lack of retention of educated people in this province is a problem our government has been attempting to solve for decades. The two go hand in hand – expand Memorial’s budget, allowing it to improve the quality and accessibility of education for its students, and you will be able to retain more of those students for career opportunities in this province.

Whether or not all members of the university community care to admit it, Memorial needs the provincial government. By working to foster a working but mutually independent relationship, both the university and the province can benefit.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s newly acquired have status may very well be the key to seeing an improvement in Memorial’s Maclean’s ranking – we just need to open the right doors.