U of T Does Poorly in NSSE Survery

Canadian Universities Forum (discussion group)

Subject: U of T Does Poorly in NSSE Survery
University rankings

NSSE was created in part to remedy what its creators felt were the drawbacks of university rankings. The U.S. News & World Report rankings are the most widely followed in the U.S., akin to the Maclean??s rankings in Canada. NSSE director George Kuh, a professor of higher education and director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, says the data in the rankings are accurate. ??The problem is that they don??t represent the things that are important to student learning.??

Canadian university administrators have long voiced similar criticisms. For example, when it comes to undergraduate education, does it really matter whether an institution has many eminent researchers if not one of them sets foot in a classroom? Why do the number of books in a library mean more than how many times a student takes them out to do coursework? And how do you really measure that enigmatic term, ??reputation???

Since 2000, almost 900,000 students at about 1,000 universities and colleges have completed the survey. NSSE encourages universities and colleges to participate as a group, as did eight of the 11 Canadian institutions in 2004 (they joined as members of the so-called G10 group of research-intensive universities, minus the two francophone G10 members, Universit?? Laval and Universit?? de Montr??al, which did not get involved). Together with the three other Canadian participants that year, they Canadianized some of the language ?C ??freshman?? to ??first-year student,?? for example ?C and added some relevant questions of their own. The fee for an institution to participate is determined by undergraduate enrolment, ranging from $1,800 to $7,800 U.S.

The reaction to the survey among many Canadian administrators and academics has been mainly positive. They expect it to bring clarity to the debate about quality. ??The only survey that has a lot of meaning to me is NSSE. It??s based on theory,?? says Philip Wood, associate vice-president, student affairs, at McMaster University. ??We know that students who are engaged do and learn better. As a result, universities which do better [on NSSE] are of higher quality.??

In a report prepared by the University of Toronto, entitled Stepping Up, the university says the 2004 results ??support what we already know about the strengths and weaknesses of the undergraduate student experience.??

Within the benchmark categories, U of T held its own in terms of the level of academic challenge.

However, it scored considerably below other institutions of the ??doctoral-extensive?? category in the areas of student-faculty interaction and active and collaborative learning. Large research-intensive institutions such as the University of British Columbia and McGill University scored similarly.

Queen??s and McMaster universities both performed impressively in a couple of areas each (academic challenge and enriching educational experience for McMaster, supportive campus environment and academic challenge for Queen??s), compared with similar Canadian and U.S. schools

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(in reply to: U of T Does Poorly in NSSE Survery)
McGill and UBC scored similarly because we are big research intensive Universities. It´s completely normal. Berkeley suffers from this same problem. At least UofT has outlined a plan (Stepping Up) to alleviate this and is actively carrying out it as we speak. I don´t know what McGill or UBC are doing.

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