SFU reclaims title as Canada’s top comprehensive university

Not only is SFU on top of a mountain, it’s also on top of Maclean’s comprehensive university rankings.

SFU has once again snagged the top spot as Maclean’s number one comprehensive university.

Maclean’s compiles rankings of Canada’s best post-secondary institutions annually, and over the past 24 years, SFU has been awarded top comprehensive university 11 times.

The category compares universities based on their research, range of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as their professional schools.

SFU president Andrew Petter noted the university’s significant development in recent years, saying, “I think our strength as a research institution has grown remarkably in the last 10 years.” He continued, “The success of our faculty in terms of their research productivity is showing up not just in Maclean’s.”

SFU was also recognized in the QS University Rankings, where the school placed 16th among universities under 50 years of age around the world. SFU was the third North American school down the list, below only the University of Calgary and UC Irvine.

SFU and the University of Victoria (UVic) have been jockeying for the Maclean’s top comprehensive spot since 2007, and even shared first place in 2008.

“It is gratifying to know that when you look at all the major indicators that Maclean’s looks at, that we’re not first in every category, but across the [Maclean’s] piece, we and UVic are really the two leaders in the country,” said Petter. UVic sits behind SFU this year, as the second best comprehensive university in Canada.

Petter spoke to the significance behind these rankings: “I think that our strength comes from the fact that we are a comprehensive university and that we offer our students such breadth in course offerings, and therefore our library holdings, and our programs reflect that breadth.”

The president explained that it is hard to know for sure what sets us apart from other schools, given that the rankings are subject to so many variables. He referred to a familiar SFU theme, telling The Peak, “SFU is a different kind of university in a way that doesn’t show up in the rankings, and perhaps it won’t surprise you to know that I think it relates a lot to the theme of engagement.”

Petter went on to cite recent events in which SFU has engaged the community, such as the SFU Public Square community summit held two weeks ago around the topic of innovation and offerings to students for “experiential learning” through co-ops and semesters in dialogue.

According to Petter, SFU offers a “diversity of learning cultures and experience” in that it has “three campuses embedded in different communities.”

Despite strengths, Petter admitted that SFU is not without its challenges. “As a large commuter campus university, we have some work to do. I think I would like to see much better performance in terms of students satisfaction than SFU has gotten.”

He mentioned that increasing residence on campus, and not only Burnaby campus, could play a part in building campus community.

The university also struggles with deferred maintenance. “It’s no secret that this is a campus that is almost 50 years old. It’s in need of some pretty significant tender love and care and we really need some investment on the part of government to deal with those issues,” said Petter.

Addressing those maintenance issues is only one way in which Petter hopes to see SFU grow and develop. He said he is looking forward to the completion of the BuildSFU project, since it will provide a space for students to “engage with each other.”

“A lot of learning takes place outside the classroom,” Petter added. He explained that he hopes that this will contribute to building better connections between domestic and international students.

Petter also pointed to the Surrey expansion as an exciting development in SFU’s not-so-distant future. The university plans to double the size of Surrey campus over the next five to eight years and has already procured the space, and is waiting now for approval from the province to proceed.

To conclude, Petter commended the hard work and enthusiasm of faculty and students that have added to the university’s current success. “SFU has a wonderful energy about it. Students are the main contributors to that energy.”