Universities opt out of Maclean's graduate survey
McMaster is one of a number of universities across the country that has notified Maclean's that it will not participate in the magazine's graduate survey this spring.
"We sent a joint letter with the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto," says president Peter George. "We believe in accountability and evaluation, but we explained to Maclean's that we weren't confident in the magazine's ability to conduct a survey that would be rigorous and provide accurate and useful information to students and their parents."
Maclean's completed a graduate survey in 2004 that randomly selected both undergraduate and graduate students from the classes of 1999 to 2001. The survey asked them about the quality of the learning environment, student services and extracurricular activities. McMaster placed in the top half of the 46 universities in the survey. Response rates for the survey were low and George says that's one of the factors that make the survey results unreliable.
"McMaster participates in a number of student surveys that provide useful information about where we're strong and where we can improve. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Graduate Professional Student Survey have already been fielded in multiple universities across the country, including ours," says George. "These instruments are useful and productive, but even these surveys have their limitations."
In NSSE's Academic Challenge category, McMaster outscored its U.S. and Canadian peers in both the first-year student and senior student surveys. In Active and Collaborative Learning, McMaster University scored higher than its Canadian peers, and was almost on par with its U.S. peers, in the first-year student level, and above its Canadian peers in the senior student level. In the Supportive Campus Environment category, McMaster scored second among its Canadian peers in both the first-year and senior student levels. McMaster, and the other Canadian schools in the survey didn't fare as well in student-faculty ratios.
McMaster has only opted out of the graduate student survey.
McMaster is currently reviewing whether to participate in the annual Maclean's university rankings this fall.
According to George, the four universities asked Maclean's to engage in a meaningful discussion about how to improve the graduate survey, but Maclean's has yet to respond to that request.
Tony Keller is the editor of special projects for Maclean's. He's quoted in the Calgary Herald that a "significant number" of other universities have declined to participate in the survey.