The Globe and Mail's Canadian University Report's profiles of more than 60 universities across the country give snapshots on many factors, from educational experience to the feel of the campus.
Mount Allison University
Mount Allison is known for its liberal arts programs and its students can choose from five degree options, including arts, commerce and science. The primarily undergraduate university only has about 2,400 students, but the small population brings a lot of life to the tiny town of Sackville.
Students come to Mount A with high-school grades averaging about 84 per cent. They find intimate classroom experiences, with an average student-to-faculty ratio of 17 to 1. Senior students rate their overall educational experience highly, and they praise the quality of their interactions with faculty.
This spring, Mount A made the news when it announced it would be halting its women's and gender studies program for the 2016-17 school year. Acting program director Lisa Dawn Hamilton notified students, attributing the upsetting loss to budget cuts.
University Of New Brunswick
Fredericton and Saint John
With campuses in both Fredericton and Saint John, the University of New Brunswick is a big player in the province. It is a research leader (with 12 active research chairs) and in 2014 was recognized by Startup Canada as the top postsecondary institution for supporting entrepreneurism.
Both Fredericton and Saint John senior students gave their overall educational experience a passing grade. However, only 57 per cent of enrolled students graduate within a seven-year period, lower than average compared to other Maritime universities.
Scott Bateman, director of UNB's Human-Computer Interaction Lab, has teamed up with the Institute of Biomedical Engineering to develop games using myoelectric controls, which allow people to control their robotic prosthetics with very subtle movements of other muscles. Mr. Bateman and his team have now prototyped the game and will continue to develop the software.
St. Thomas University
St. Thomas University is the smaller of two universities located in Fredericton. Focused primarily on undergraduate education, STU offers students more than 30 programs in the humanities and social sciences.
The university caps classes at 60 students, but the average class size is 29, decreasing as students enter their upper years. STU says that 100 per cent of full-time faculty have their PhD or highest degrees in their fields.
STU offers more than 40 scholarships and bursaries to suit the needs of its students.
However, 15 per cent of graduates default on their student loans, a higher proportion compared to other universities in the province.
In June, SRU opened the Office of Experiential and Community Based Learning to provide students the support they need to put their skills to work. The office offers labs, fieldwork, applied research challenges and opportunities to collaborate with community organizations and start-ups.
Acadia's campus is located in the heart of Wolfville, and its 4,000 students dominate this small town, filling up local restaurants and bars on weekends.
Acadia focuses on experiential learning: About 10 per cent of Acadia students enroll in co-op programs, and honours students in every discipline are required to complete a research-based thesis.
The university dedicates more of its budget to financial aid than most other Maritime universities, but student debts are slighter higher than average for the region.
Acadia's on-campus entrepreneurship centre, Launchbox, is there to help students in all programs develop their ideas for startups. Opened in 2014, the centre organizes brainstorming and pitching events and provides a physical space for students to collaborate.
This past March, the federal and provincial governments announced funding for a new wine lab at Acadia University. The $480,960 investment, which employs both university and industry members, supports research into wine quality, production and growth, and it is intended to help grow the province's industry.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
University Of Prince Edward Island
Tuition: $7, 032*
UPEI is located in the land of small-town charm and Anne of Green Gables, so it's not surprising that it is known for its tight-knit and friendly community. Students benefit from being close to Charlottetown's many pubs and music scene. While many members of the university's student body are islanders themselves, students come from across the country, and from 70 countries around the world, to study at UPEI.
The small school has four faculties – arts, education, science and veterinary medicine – as well a school of business and a school of nursing.
UPEI has been working to increase enrolment, and that effort is paying off. In June 2016, UPEI's vicepresident academic and research Robert Gilmour announced that the number of students applying to UPEI is up by 30 per cent. He broke down the spike, saying that international applications increased by more than 100 per cent, while Canadian applications rose 6 per cent and P.E.I. applications increased by 3 per cent.
The increase is significantly higher than the university was expecting.
Cape Breton University
Cape Breton University is one of Canada's youngest universities, created through a 1974 amalgamation of the Sydney satellite college of St. Francis Xavier University and the Nova Scotia Eastern Institute of Technology.
The small school has slightly more than 3,000 students, 94 per cent of whom are Nova Scotia natives.
CBU offers students a range of applied research opportunities that allow students to work with and provide technical assistance to local Cape Breton businesses, industries and organizations. The university offers Canada's only master of business administration in community economic development.
A lower-than-average 57 per cent of CBU students graduate within seven years of enrolment, and students find they have trouble paying off their debt, with a 15-per-cent default rate. Still, senior students rate their overall educational experience very highly in comparison to the ratings given by students from other schools in the Maritimes.
Halifax (main) and Truro
Founded in 1818, Dalhousie University is one of Canada's oldest universities. It has the largest student body among the East Coast universities, and with 37 active research chairs and $135-million in research grants and awards each year, it is a major Maritime research hub.
A partnership between Dalhousie and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) in Israel allows Dal students to take a course at IUI and earn a full credit toward their degree. These lucky students take part in lectures, but spend much of their course snorkelling through coral reefs and floating on a deep-sea research vessel in the Red Sea.
Dalhousie dedicates the largest percentage of its operating budget to financial aid in the region, although student debt is slightly higher than average. Sixty-five per cent of students graduate within a six-year period.
University Of King's College
The University of King's College is the smallest university on the East Coast, although a joint arts and sciences program with next-door neighbour Dalhousie University means King's students can take any of the 3,600 classes offered at Dal.
Most King's College students start in the Foundation Year Program.
In this program, students move as a unit, attending one lecture a day and breaking off into small tutorial groups to study a canon of philosophy, history, literature and art. After first year, King's is known for its humanities and journalism programs.
King's students graduate with less debt than other students in the Atlantic region, perhaps in part because the school dedicates almost 5 per cent of its operating budget to financial aid, a rate higher than average in the province.
Sarah Burns, a 2015 alumna who completed the Foundation Year Program and graduated with a degree in economics, is the most recent King's student to become a Rhodes Scholar. The scholarship covers two years of study at the University of Oxford, where Ms. Burns plans to pursue a master of philosophy in economics.
Mount Saint Vincent University
Mount Saint Vincent University, located 15 minutes from Halifax's downtown core, was founded as one of Canada's first women's universities. Established in 1873 by the Sisters of Charity, it allowed women to pursue higher education at a time when they didn't yet have the vote.
Although the university is co-ed now, one of the ways MSVU maintains its commitment to female empowerment is by hosting the annual Girls Conference. Now in its fifth year, the event brings in more than 200 junior and highschool girls from across Nova Scotia for a variety of workshops focused on building self-confidence and leadership skills.
MSVU offers a range of undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs to its approximately 4,000 students.
Eighty per cent of the student population is Nova Scotian, but the small percentage of international students comes from more than 50 countries. Class sizes are small, and MSVU maintains a ratio of one faculty member for every 20 students.
MSVU offers research facilities like the Atlantic Centre for Research and Education of Girls and Women, the Food Action Research Centre (FoodARC), the Maritime Data Centre for Aging Research and Policy Analysis and the Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network.
The Nova Scotia College of Art & Design University's little campusby-the-sea is spread across several historic buildings located in Halifax's gallery-rich waterfront district.
It is home to just 677 student artists, and their work has a big impact on this small city. They often showcase their work at Halifax's annual Nocturne Festival, a free nighttime event that brings all kinds of art, from installations and performance art to paintings and sculptures, right onto the streets.
NSCAD has been in the red for the past few years, announcing in 2015 that the school faced a $13-million debt. This past fall, NSCAD announced it would be moving from a block of Victorian buildings that house its Fountain campus, rather than incur expensive renovation costs. It still maintains two other buildings in the area, though the school hopes to have an integrated campus by the end of 2019.
In December 2015, NSCAD's board of governors approved a 27-per-cent tuition increase for fulltime students, despite the success of 100 student protesters in delaying the vote. The hike, which will happen over the next three years, will apply to about 40 per cent of NSCAD students.
St. Francis Xavier University
St. Francis Xavier University's big-time spirit and its famous X-ring that students receive upon graduation have garnered the school a reputation far exceeding its size. Its campus, in the town of Antigonish, two hours northeast of Halifax, is home to fewer than 4,000 students.
St. FX has the highest graduation rate of all the schools on the East Coast, with 78 per cent of its students graduating within a sevenyear period. And students report high satisfaction with their degrees: 85 per cent of senior students said their overall experience was excellent or good. However, students do graduate with levels of debt substantially higher than the provincial average.
While school spirit is usually a good thing, sometimes it can get out of hand. In March 2016, Antigonish arena officials shut down a St. FX intramural hockey tournament, the BurMac Cup, because of the rowdy and uncontrollable crowd and cancelled the event for next year. The annual event, based on a rivalry between two St. FX residences, Burke and MacIsaac halls, had been a school favourite for 38 years.
Saint Mary's University
Home to more than 6,000 students, Saint Mary's University is the largest of the small postsecondary institutions in the city of Halifax, with introductory classes averaging about 48 students. Slightly more than half of enrolled SMU students graduate within a seven-year measurement period, below average for the province It stands out for the size and reputation of its business program (46 per cent of SMU students are enrolled in commerce) and its large international population. Nearly one-third of SMU students come from outside of Canada.
This year, SMU teamed up with Halifax Public Libraries to co-ordinate a citizenship test preparation class that helps prepare immigrants for the final phase of their immigration process. The teacher, Jonathan Shaw, is an SMU student working toward a master's degree in education, with a focus on teaching English as a second language.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Memorial University Of Newfoundland
St. John's and Corner Brook
Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's stands out for having the lowest tuition in the country ($3,073 per year for students from the province.) It is the only university in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it has the largest student population in Atlantic Canada, after Dalhousie University.
The bulk of MUN students study arts or sciences, but the school also has large business administration and engineering programs.
Compared to other Atlantic Canada universities, MUN spends the second-highest amount per student on its library operations. Students graduate with levels of debt below the provincial average.
A new podcast developed out of MUN's Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, called Rural Routes, asks, "What does rural mean in the 21st century?" Created by master's candidate Bojan Furst, it is gaining popularity across Canada and globally.