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While some schools have opted out of this year's Maclean's magazine rankings of Canadian universities, McGill has decided to stay on board to satisfy public demand for information, says Principal Heather Munroe-Blum.
"Our view is that we want to be as accountable as we can," Principal Munroe-Blum said in her chair's opening remarks at the Oct. 11 meeting of Senate.
"Benchmarking is of enormous public interest. It speaks to an appetite the public has in measuring quality and impact."
The Maclean's University Rankings, published every autumn since 1991, rate universities based on the average entering grade of new students, retention rates and the average number of professors who hold PhD's, among other data traditionally supplied by the universities themselves.
Last month, Maclean's served 22 universities with Access to Information requests after the schools announced they would not participate in this year's exercise, citing the rankings as oversimplified and arbitrary.
McGill's decision to buck the trend had nothing to do with the fact the university consistently does well in the Maclean's survey, said Munroe-Blum.
In fact, several top-tier schools were among the holdouts this year.
The 2006 Maclean's University Rankings issue is expected to hit newsstands Nov. 2.
The Chair's remarks on the value of ranking the relative strengths and weaknesses of Canada's universities — and a rundown of McGill's many accomplishments over the past year — segued into a reiteration of the need for greater government funding in order to remain competitive.
"November will be a time of announcements at the federal level," Munroe-Blum told Senators, adding that McGill and other Quebec universities are working with the provincial Ministry of Education to ensure the university system gets the most bang for its buck from federal transfer payments.
Morty Yalovsky, Vice-Principal, Administration and Finance, later put the importance of such efforts in clear context when he presented his 2005-2006 financial report. McGill's operating deficit for 2006-2007 stands at $17 million, he noted, and 49 percent of the university's operating revenue comes from the Quebec government.
Though investment income and other sources of revenue provide a fiscal cushion of sorts, Principal Munroe-Blum noted that the current level of government funding affects the university's ability to reach its goals. "For instance, one of our top goals is for every eligible student to be able to attend McGill regardless of their financial situation — but we're far from it."
Just as the university must allocate resources where they're needed most, it must do the same with space — a topic that prompted Provost Anthony Masi to deliver a stern prepared response to a question submitted by Arts Senators Brian Lewis, Chair of the History Department, and Phil Oxhorn, Director of the Centre for Developing Studies (CDAS).
In their submission, the Senators criticized a perceived lack of consultation and "lapse in the decision-making process" when McGill decided to reallocate the CDAS space at 3715 Peel to the Faculty of Education and Chancellor Day Hall to the Faculty of Law.
The Provost explained that the reallocation plans were not new and, in fact, had been discussed at length, and that individual deans are responsible for making their space requirements known to the administration and for deciding who goes where within their faculties.
In response to a later question from Student Senator Sean R. Waugh, Dean Don McLean of the Schulich School of Music defended the necessity of charging music students a private-lesson fee of $333 per year in addition to tuition, citing the current shortfall in government funding.