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Montreal tops North American cities for university students


Of the 30 largest cities in North America, Montreal comes out with the highest number of university students per capita, according to a brief but eloquent statistical survey released today by McGill University. Experts in the Planning Office say they wanted to discover exactly where the City ranked by comparison, for example, with Boston, which is often admired as the intellectual capital of North America. It is widely believed that universities play a strategic role in the prosperity of both urban and rural areas, and certainly many Quebec politicians and industry chiefs have touted Montreal’s advantages in this respect over the past few years.

The McGill study meticulously examined 30 of the largest metropolitan centres across Canada and the United States and drew on publicly available census figures regarding the number of university students registered in each of the urban centres. With a population of 3.3 million and nearly 150,000 students in its seven universities, Montreal has nearly 4.4 students per 100 inhabitants, according to the researchers. Its closest Canadian rivals are Vancouver and Toronto, respectively 9th and 10th in the rankings. Boston and Denver follow Montreal in terms of the number of university students per 100 inhabitants among the 30 cities surveyed.

McGill officials expressed their surprise that Montreal has, in fact, outstripped Boston and noted that the City’s universities have begun to pool their resources through increasing numbers of joint programs and cooperative research projects. "You can feel a real synergy developing," says Dr Luc Vinet, vice-principal (academic). "Proximity is a definite advantage, on which we intend to capitalize more and more. This news should encourage companies that depend on highly qualified personnel to establish themselves and expand in the Montreal area."

Principal Bernard Shapiro also points out that Montreal attracts a very large number of out-of-province and international students. "McGill is a key player, attracting some of the brightest from all over the world. Moreover, recent economic impact studies also demonstrate that more university research is conducted here than in any other Canadian city, highlighting the importance of public and private sector collaboration as a stimulus for improving the quality of life here," he says.

Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque is also pleased that the study confirms what he has often maintained about Montreal. "This is an exciting and vibrant city, full of promising young people with aspirations for a better future. The presence of our universities make Montreal a truly exceptional city on the North American continent."

*McGill, UniversitÉ de MontrÉal, École des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, Polytechnique, Concordia, UQAM and ETS.