Undergrads ignore Globe survey

Oct 30, 2003, vol. 28, no. 5
By Howard Fluxgold

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Some undergraduates believe that SFU is a “vibrant academic community” and that their professors are exceptional.

Nevertheless, the university could only crack the top 10 in a few of the 67 categories and subcategories in a Globe and Mail survey of undergraduates' perceptions of their university experience.

The online survey compiles and ranks the responses of students at 38 universities across Canada in categories as diverse as the quality of education and the quality of the campus bar. Only 361 of SFU's approximately 18,000 undergrads completed it.

To participate, students had to sign up with a website called studentawards.com, a free scholarship search service that helps students find information on financial assistance.

In general, universities west of Ontario faired poorly with the top three rankings in each category usually reserved for Ontario schools with a smattering of representation from Quebec and the Maritimes. In all, only 26,000 undergrads participated.

SFU's best showing came in the online library resources subcategory where it ranked fourth. According to the survey, students believe the university has done a “great job entering the high tech teaching sector,” although some would like to see more computers available on campus.

SFU also ranks in the top 10 in the categories of access to online course materials (6), labs and research equipment (7), co-op opportunities (7) and the availability of teaching assistants (9). However, students seemed divided on the quality of teaching assistants. One says, “There are many incredible TAs, but there are also many very bad TAs.”

SFU faired poorest in the categories of availability of required courses (38) and ease of course registration (36).

How valuable is a survey that gives top-ten ranking to two non-existent schools: University of Waterloo's law school and York University's medical school and ranks UBC and the University of Toronto at the bottom for quality of education?

Warren Gill, VP-university relations, says, “Any time you get students' opinions you should consider them.” However, he believes the survey of SFU alumni done two and five years after graduation provides more useful information. He also notes that the results seem to be “inversely correlated with the size of the university and directly correlated with the distance from Ontario.”

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