The Canadian news stories about the QS World University Rankings that came out today were mostly concerned with the top Canadian university, McGill, and a very brief overview of the ratings and results.
A slightly deeper look reveals some pretty disturbing trends. Yes, perennial high performer McGill had dropped, but only one spot, to 19th. U of T tread water at 29th. The worst of it was the fate of the other Canadian schools:
UBC: down 4 to 44th
U of A: down 19 spots to 79th
Queens: down 24 to 132nd
U de M: down 29 to 136th
Waterloo: down 32 to 145th
McMaster: down 19 to 162nd
Western: down 13 to 164th
U of C: down down 16 to 165th
and Simon Fraser was knocked out of the top 200 altogether
Is it too much of a coincidence to swallow that not one single Canadian university managed to raise its ranking?
We are left to wonder and surmise, what might be the reasons for these poor showings.
A few fairly reasonable possible explanations:
1. Changes in methodology for some reason affecting Canadian rankings (although the accompanying write-up claims methodology to be relatively unchanged)
2. Rapid ascent of Chinese and other developing world schools newer to rankings
3. Heavy lobbying by European and other non-English language schools to be given more consideration, (U.S. and U.K. schools still hold 50 of the top 100 spots)
and suddenly another possibility occurred to me:
4. Meddling of the Harper government in research. Some examples of this, in the words of Canadian scientists: "The Harper government's suppression and misrepresentation of research does a great disservice to Canadians in terms of our personal health and safety."
"Scientists of all disciplines have been faced with examples where the government has chosen ideology over scientific process. Science is meant to inform policy; it should not be muzzled by ideology," says Dr. Andrew Weaver, Professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
The whole census debate dovetails right into this discussion, as does the Harper government's continuing cuts in many areas of research.
If that doesn't convince you, go ahead and google * Harper research interference *... there is plenty of it.
Enough to poison the air in our universities in a matter of a few years? Let's hope not.