Making the right choice in a higher education

di Priscilla Pajdo del August 31, 2020

TORONTO - The transition between high school and post secondary education is an important period in any young adult’s life. It is a time in which each individual interested in pursing a university education must make some life changing decisions.

There are some things to keep in mind when making those decisions. First, individuals seeking a higher education must choose the right program in which to pursue their studies. This is an important step since it will be a field in which one could spend the next four to six years studying. The next fundamental step is to choose the best educational institution.

The choice can be made easier when consulting university rankings. Thankfully, organizations that rank universities exist to help any future student make the best choice. The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) is one such organization. It is globally recognized as the most trustworthy university ranking system. The ARWU has been presenting the world’s top universities annually (since 2003), using transparent methodology and objective third-party data. Earlier this month (August 15), the ARWU released their report for the best universities in the world. The ranking is based on objective indicators such as: the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals; articles published in journals of Nature and Science; highly cited researchers and articles indexed in prominent citation databases, and, overall individual academic performance.

The results of this year’s ranking of more than two thousand universities across the globe lists Harvard University (USA) as the number one academic institution in the world. Here, in Canada, we are interested in where Canadian Universities place in ARWU’s ranking. The University of Toronto (UofT) ranks 23 on the global list - one spot higher than it did in 2019. A point worth noting for our Italian diaspora, three universities in Italy place in the top two hundred. The Sapienza University of Rome ranked 161, followed by University of Milan (185) and University of Pisa (191). Nationally – in Italy - they rank in the top three.

Back to Canada, the UofT ranks as the number one university in Canada. Moreover, it attracts some 90 thousand students - the highest student enrollment of all Canadian Universities (2019). In addition to the Global University ranking, the ARWU also released a report that ranks institutions in each of five academic subject categories. The ranking assesses 54 academic subjects across five fields of study: engineering, life sciences, medical sciences, natural sciences and social sciences (see chart below).

Much like the criteria used to rank universities as a whole, other factors are taken into consideration when ranking academic subjects. These include measures of research quality, extent of international collaboration, highest academic recognition and awards when compared to others. For example, the UofT ranks between 4th and 45th in thirty-two of the fifty-four academic subjects. That is impressive by any standard. That is a feather in our collective cap. Its alumni can bask in that prestige. So as we approach the first day of classes, those students who have been granted admission, whether in-class or on-line, can rest assured they have made a great choice.

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