We gathered information from professors, alumni and the universities themselves to describe some of the strengths and weaknesses of almost 60 universities in Canada. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) informed coverage of the type of undergraduate education. But, most importantly, we spoke to real-life students about the good and bad of their university experience.
See profiles of universities in other regions by clicking on the links:
University of Regina
Pro: Cheerleading squad is the best in Canada
U of R ranks in the bottom third on every NSSE metric, which might have something to do with it receiving $1,000 less in government funding per full-time student than more prominent University of Saskatchewan. Nonetheless, U of R has strengths; its petroleum engineering program "attracts students from countries such as China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia due to its strong reputation," according to president Vianne Timmons. U of R guarantees that students who complete a series of career development activities will be employed within six months of graduation, or they receive an additional year of study at no cost.
Hotshot prof: Mark Brigham won the 2008 Joseph Grinnell Award from the American Society of Mammalogists for his contributions to education in mammalogy.
Notable alumnus: Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham is a National Newspaper Award winner.
University of Saskatchewan
Pro: New $140-million vaccine research facility
Con: Recent tuition hikes
With neo-gothic buildings ringed by farmland and the South Saskatchewan River, the university is downright beautiful. The Bowl, a grassy area in front of College Building, is a popular hangout until harsh winter weather chases students down to the extensive underground tunnel system. Its world-class agriculture department offers 13 majors ranging from soil science to agronomy. Students worry that Saskatchewan's efforts to decrease its deficit (almost 250 employee positions were eliminated since November of 2012) will be felt in the classroom.
Hotshot prof: Priscilla Settee was named a Female Food Hero by Oxfam Canada for her work on indigenous food sovereignty and women's rights.
Notable alumnus: Brad Wall is the Premier of Saskatchewan.
Small-town prairie school
Pro: Small class sizes
Con: Lacking co-op and internship opportunities
Brandon University features the small classes and access to faculty you'd expect from such a small school. But its performance on the NSSE is oddly mixed, scoring high on some indicators and poorly on others. Program highlights include engineering (students have the option of taking classes at the University of Minnesota) and music education, which boasts a 100-per-cent job placement rate.
Hotshot prof: Bernadette Ardelli netted grants from NSERC and the Canada Foundation for Innovation for her research into drug-resistant infections.
Notable alumnus: Tommy Douglas, first leader of the New Democratic Party, is credited with introducing universal health care to Canada.
Students say: "In my program the quality of professors is fantastic. The reason I switched my degree to political science was partly because of the quality. "
– Stephanie Bachewich, recent graduate political science
University of Manitoba
Pro: Cheaper than similar options in Ontario
Con: Poor performance on NSSE
The massive U of M offers a huge variety of programs and research opportunities. Its pharmacy program is one of the best in the country. Located in the deep suburbs 10 kilometres from downtown, U of M can feel impersonal. But students say the school is transitioning from a dull commuter campus to a bustling, lively community. The opening last June of a 35,000-seat, $200-million stadium, the largest on any Canadian campus, should help.
Hotshot prof: Annemieke Farenhorst is the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Prairie region).
Notable alumnus: Murray Sinclair was Manitoba's first aboriginal judge and is the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Students say: "The U of M is on the rise; be it the new stadium, the Southwood land development, or the enhancement of the faculties to create a professional, collegial environment."
– Al Turnbull, fourth-year political studies
University of Winnipeg
Artsy and progressive
Pro: Beautiful architecture in heart of Winnipeg
Con: Fewer course offerings than U of M
Students say that the smart, artsy kids go to U of W while everyone else commutes to the suburbs. The comment speaks both to U of W's urban, small campus feel and to its longtime rivalry with the University of Manitoba, which comes to a head during the annual Duckworth Challenge basketball and volleyball tournament. U of W has a reputation for being progressive, and this doesn't only apply to its student body; a number of innovative financial aid programs help aboriginal and refugee students afford higher education.
Hotshot prof: Craig Willis has received more than $400,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for his research into white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America since 2007.
Notable alumnus: Lloyd Axworthy, former minister for foreign affairs, is now the president of University of Winnipeg.
Students say: "There was a consistent emphasis on volunteerism, community engagement, international practicum placements, leadership, experiential learning and taking our learning and applying it beyond the classroom."
– Megan Fultz, recent graduate international development