America's View on Canadian Universities

Canadian Universities Forum (discussion group)

Subject: America's View on Canadian Universities
McGill´s `Harvard´ Image Grows as School Tops Ranking (Update2)
Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- McGill University boosters have a T- shirt waiting for students like Meredith Yasek, a 17-year-old Boston resident who wants to attend the Montreal school next year: ``Harvard -- America´s McGill.´´

``It´s one of the premier institutions in North America, the one in Canada that Americans know about,´´ said Yasek, who also is applying to Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University and Yale University. ``It´s the Harvard of Canada.´´

The Canadian school is luring students like Yasek with the reputation of its professors and a price tag that´s 50 percent less than some American universities. The number of students from the U.S. doubled in the past five years, and Americans now account for about 7 percent of the school´s 32,800 students.

McGill tied the University of Toronto as Canada´s No. 1 doctoral university in Maclean´s magazine´s annual rankings this month, the first time it has done so in more than a decade. Canada´s lone newsweekly has been rating universities for 15 years, taking into account criteria such as student grades, faculty and reputation.

Foreign students make up about 20 percent of enrollment this year, the biggest proportion for any Canadian university, McGill recruitment director Howard Tontini said in an interview.

``International is a big deal for us,´´ Tontini said. ``It´s a mission of the university to always be internationally recognized, and to be able to do that, you want professors and students from around the world.´´

James McGill

Founded as the University of McGill College in 1821 with a bequest from Scottish-born Montreal fur trader James McGill, the school has grown into an academic institution that offers studies in 300 disciplines, with seven affiliated teaching hospitals and 14 libraries.

McGill´s Harvard T-shirt, made by students without the school´s approval, is more a reflection of the university´s aspirations than a reality. In a global ranking published Oct. 28 by London´s Times Higher Education Supplement, the Canadian school fell three places from last year to 24th, way behind the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based university, which was No. 1.

McGill has sought to climb those ranks by adding staff. About 500 professors, or about 33 percent of McGill´s teachers, were added in the past five years. Noted academics include Wendy Thomson, the director of the school of social work and a former adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Full-time faculty members each receive C$233,000 ($199,448) on average in grants a year, the highest in Canada, according to the school.


Tuition is another attraction for foreign students. A year in Yale´s engineering program, to which Yasek is applying, costs about $41,000 for tuition, room and board. McGill´s international students pay half as much, or about C$24,000 including books, food, lodging, insurance and various fees.

``That was the first thing that made me want to look at Canada,´´ Yasek said. ``For such a good education, it´s amazing that tuition can be so much lower.´´

Tuition´s not the only thing that´s lower -- McGill´s endowment fund, worth about C$760 million, is about 3 percent of Harvard´s $25.9 billion fund. McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum called the school ``grotesquely underfunded´´ in an interview with Maclean´s this month.

Canada´s 90 universities have about 800,000 full-time students this year, according to a preliminary estimate by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. About 17 million people are enrolled at more than 4,100 U.S. colleges and universities, according the American Council on Education in Washington. That means there are about twice as many university students in the U.S. than in Canada, relative to population.


Tuition at Canadian schools, as well as at some state universities in the U.S., is lower because governments subsidize them. McGill had a budget of about C$929 million in 2003-2004, almost a third of which came from the Quebec government.

That spending has benefited North American schools such as the University of Toronto and those in California´s public university system, helping them lure students who can´t afford an Ivy-League education.

``Tuition is a really big attraction for a U.S. student,´´ said Elysia Blake, an arts student who holds dual French and U.S. citizenship and is vice president of the McGill International Student Network. ``They know that tuition here will be substantially easier to cope with.´´

And once everything´s paid for, it´s much easier to enjoy McGill´s other appeals, such as its location in Montreal, a city known for events such as the Just For Laughs comedy show and the annual jazz festival.

`Don´t Worry´

``When I got here, people told me `don´t worry about the cold,´ and they were right,´´ said Blake, a 20-year-old Florida native who grew up in Central America.

Quebec is one of the few spots in North America where the legal drinking age is 18. Playboy magazine this year listed McGill as one of North America´s ``Top 10 Party Schools.´´

McGill´s reputation suffered a blow last month when the university´s Redmen football team made news across North America for a hazing incident that led to the cancellation of the team´s season.

Dubbed ``Hazegate´´ by Montreal´s Gazette newspaper for an incident the school said involved ``nudity, degrading positions and behaviors and gagging,´´ the scandal sparked headlines such as ``Red-faced Redmen´´ and ``McGill Just Doesn´t Get It.´´

The incident hasn´t affected the school´s recruitment efforts, Tontini said.

Intense competition from other schools in Canada and abroad may be a bigger deterrent for prospective students. McGill´s MBA program didn´t make Business Week´s list of the top 10 non-U.S. programs last year. Queen´s University in Kingston, Ontario, topped the list, which included four Canadian schools.

The business program aside, students such as Blake say the school gives a brand-name education at a bargain price.

``When you come out of McGill, you know that people the world over will know where you came from,´´ Blake said.

To contact the reporter for this story: Frederic Tomesco in Montreal at .

Last Updated: November 29, 2005 12:40 EST

Old news, but relevant to this forum.

(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
This is bad journalism. Oh so bias.

The quality of education at Mcgill is no where near that of american schools.

(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
I love how the reporter is located in MTL.

I´ve talked to many American students here at UofT and they´re at UofT for a reason. Those who go to McGill go because of (1) cheaper tuition and (2) it´s a good place to party.

(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
the reporter is from montreal, but the thing is, the people he interviews are american. and they reflect the view of most americans when it comes to canadian universities (or the only canadian university that they know, McGill).
(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
Students look north for college options
Patricia Alex
Issue date: 12/11/03 Section: News

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HACKENSACK, N.J. - McGill University has been called "the Harvard of the North" and, indeed, the Montreal school has a reputation that ranks with the American Ivies.

Except for the price tag. The full freight at Harvard - tuition, room and board - is nearly $38,000, compared with $12,000 (U.S.) for McGill.

American enrollment in Canadian universities is up about 86 percent in the past four years to more than 5,000 students, according to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

It´s not exactly a groundswell - the number pales compared with the 23,000 Canadians who study in the United States annually - but the word is out that there are good educational buys to be had north of the border.

"I´m very happy I made this choice," said Sally Warner, a student from South Orange, N.J., who attends McGill. "I didn´t even apply to the Ivies because I didn´t want to shell out $40,000."

Warner ranked second in her class and scored more than 1400 on her SATs - stats that would have put her on good footing at the best of American schools.

But McGill added up for her, in more ways than one. She loves the cosmopolitan flair of French-speaking Montreal, where housing prices are a fraction of those in the New York area. She pays about $200 U.S. a month for a share in a modern, centrally located apartment, and the drinking age is 18 in Quebec.

Because she is a Canadian citizen by virtue of her mother´s place of birth, Warner´s resident tuition at McGill is about $6,000 U.S. annually.

"It was cheaper than going to Rutgers," she said. "And I love it."

The increase in American students attending college in Canada is fueled, in part, by aggressive recruiting campaigns by schools such as McGill.

And, in fact, about a third of the American students in Canada are at McGill. About 1,500 of the 30,000 students at McGill are American.

The language is familiar, except at some predominantly French universities in Quebec, and student visa and entrance requirements generally aren´t too burdensome. Coursework and scheduling are similar to universities in the United States, and Canadian degrees are generally respected and portable.

"An undergraduate degree from our university is very competitive for admissions to graduate schools in the U.S.," said Jo-Anne Brady, registrar at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.

To be sure, Canadian recruiters are helped by the good academics that their publicly funded universities enjoy. And the relative strength of the U.S. dollar has worked in their favor when courting American families.

"It´s a great value," said Eve Jacobs, whose daughter Rachel is a McGill graduate. "We have a kid now at Cornell, and I can´t compare it money-wise."

Michele Papavasiliou has also turned northward in search of a "good education for the dollar." She traveled a month ago to check out universities in Canada with her son Jesse, a high school junior.

"He is looking for a foreign experience," said the mom. "The thing about Canada is, you can be in a foreign country and still take the bus home. ... To me, it´s the best of both worlds."

If you´re into snow, that is.

"You really have to like winter to go to school up there," Papavasiliou said.

(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
Los Angeles Times
December 1, 2003

Seeking Ivy Amid the Maple
By Peter Y. Hong, Times Staff Writer

MONTREAL ? As Oliver Monday prepared to graduate from high school in
Berkeley with a 3.5 grade point average and 1400 SAT score, he hoped
to be admitted to either UCLA or UC Santa Barbara.

When both schools rejected him, he knew just where to look for a fine
public university experience: Canada.

Monday ended up a freshman here at 174-year-old McGill University,
known to some as "the Harvard of Canada."

He has no regrets.

"I´m definitely getting what I worked for ? a cheap, good education,"
he said, noting that he is paying only slightly more than he would
have at a UC campus.

With more than 2,300 colleges and universities, the U.S. remains the
destination of choice for students from around the world, including
many who are shut out of elite schools in their home countries.

But in recent years, as competition has grown for slots at the most
selective U.S. schools, American students such as Monday increasingly
have gone against the current, deciding that Canada is now the land of

The number of American university students in Canada has nearly
doubled in the last five years, to more than 4,200 this year,
according to the Canadian Embassy.

The Canadian colleges, which originally drew most of their American
students from the Northeastern states, increasingly are attracting
applicants from California, Texas and Florida. San Francisco and Los
Angeles high schools now are regular stops on recruiters´ routes.

The schools are taking some students that the most competitive UC
campuses don´t. UC Berkeley and UCLA reject a majority of applicants
with grade averages of 4.0 or higher, and, as a recent report by UC
Board of Regents Chairman John J. Moores suggests, extremely high SATs
are no guarantee of admission either.

Because of the country´s relatively small population ? 31 million ?
Canada´s top schools have not had the same rush for spaces.

"The system´s that much more tame because it´s that much smaller,"
said Paul Beel, who directs McGill´s international recruiting.

In addition, even the most prestigious Canadian universities have
resisted the steep tuition hikes characteristic of the top U.S.

Canadian universities are heavily subsidized. Tuition at McGill for
foreign students is roughly $8,000 per year. Although that is much
more than Canadians pay, it is less than one-third of what some
private U.S. colleges charge, and also lower than in-state tuition at
many public universities.

Jonathan Meyer, a McGill freshman from San Rafael, Calif., said he was
accepted at the University of Chicago but was reluctant to go there
because "I didn´t want to make my parents poor" by saddling them with
the $28,689 annual tuition there.

Sylvain-Jacques Desjardin, a McGill spokesman, explains the school´s
appeal to Americans as "Ivy League at a steal."

Although Canadian universities do not provide need-based financial aid
for U.S. students, Americans can get scholarships based on merit. In
addition, they can obtain U.S.-guaranteed loans and are allowed to
work part-time jobs on campus.

For Americans, undergraduate admission at even the most selective
Canadian schools is refreshingly simple, based mainly on whether high
school grades and test scores meet that year´s numerical standards.
Canadian students are evaluated on grades alone.

Essays, recommendations and interviews are seldom required. There are
no early decision, alumni preference or affirmative action programs to
complicate the process.

Of the Canadian universities, McGill draws the most Americans ? about
500 per year or 2,000 total, Beel said. Americans make up 11% of
full-time McGill undergraduates.

Three other leading Canadian schools ? the University of British
Columbia in Vancouver, the University of Toronto and Queens University
in Kingston, Ontario ? have drawn more Americans by recruiting jointly
in the United States, calling their group "Canadian Ivy."

Donald Wehrung, a University of British Columbia professor who directs
international recruiting for the school, said the number of U.S.
undergraduates has more than tripled in five years, to 241 students in
the last school year.

Wehrung said rising UC standards have helped boost U.S. applications
to his school, not only from Californians, but also from students in
such states as Washington, Alaska and Oregon who want to study out of
state but find that UC schools are out of reach.

Their more relaxed approach to admissions reflects a different view of
what defines educational quality, McGill officials say.

"We are a competitive university. Some of our students have turned
down really good schools," Beel said. But he added that admissions are
"based very much on the fact that we are publicly funded. We believe
everyone should have access if they make the grade."

Selectivity is "absolutely" related to quality ? but only to a point,
said Heather Munroe-Blum, who is McGill´s principal, the Canadian
equivalent of the university president. "Do I feel we have to keep
pressing it? No."

McGill accepted 43% of undergraduate applicants for the current
freshman class. U.S. students with a B-plus grade average and an SAT
score in the 1200s (out of a possible 1600) generally will be
admitted, the university´s admissions office said. The system
resembles the relatively simple process used by the UC system years

By contrast, Stanford and Harvard typically admit fewer than 15% of
applicants, and UC Berkeley and UCLA fewer than 25%. The low
acceptance rate helps American colleges rise In influential rankings
such as those published annually by U.S. News and World Report
magazine, but "in Canada, a high refusal rate is not a source of
pride," Munroe-Blum said.

That approach makes Canada a perfect refuge for Americans wary of
today´s often-frenzied admissions race.

Dan Seeman, a McGill freshman and high school classmate of Oliver
Monday, recalls feeling "pretty disillusioned about the whole college
application process."

Seeman finished high school with a 3.7 grade point average and an SAT
score in the 1200s. He was admitted to three UC campuses and the
universities of Iowa, Oregon and Colorado, but not his first choice,

Rather than obsess over college admissions while in high school,
Seeman said, he preferred to spend his time writing for the school
newspaper, reading or listening to music. He watched others hire
private admissions consultants or join clubs they weren´t interested
in, simply to add to their resumes. He considered the admissions
process a game.

Seeman began to research Canadian schools after a University of
British Columbia recruiter visited his high school, and was drawn to
McGill partly because it was in a French-speaking province. He had
attended a French-language private elementary school in Berkeley.

For Americans, Canada combines the allure of a foreign land with the
familiarity and proximity of a North American neighbor. Although
French is the dominant language in Montreal, English is widely spoken
and locals are tolerant of monolingual Americans.

McGill classes are taught in English and the undergraduate curriculum
is compatible with that of U.S. colleges, making it easier for those
who wish to return to the United States for graduate school.

The Canadian school has had ties to the U.S. since its earliest years,
when its athletic and academic competitors were schools in the
Northeastern United States. Like Harvard in the U.S., the university
predates the country. Canada did not become a nation until 1867, 38
years after classes began at McGill.

Although it is not included in U.S. college rankings, McGill, by at
least one important measure, is considered a top-tier North American
school. It and the University of Toronto are the only non-U.S. members
of the Assn. of American Universities, an elite group founded in 1900
and made up of 62 research universities.

Alumni say their diplomas are respected when they return home. Aline
Normoyle, a 1995 McGill graduate, found a job as a software engineer
in Cambridge, Mass. She said her classmates were admitted to top U.S.
graduate schools, including Stanford and Harvard.

On campus, one might momentarily forget being abroad as students
stroll by in "Cal" or "USC" sweatshirts. But look closely, and some
differences emerge.

McGill, for instance, attracts students not just from over the border
but from all over the world ? far more than most U.S. schools. Nearly
20% of students are from outside Canada, and many Canadian students
are immigrants themselves. Also, a fifth of McGill students are native
French speakers, and a quarter speak a first language other than
English or French.

Canadians say American students add another flavor to the mix.

"Campuses thrive on diversity, so students from Angola, Thailand or
the U.S. are all beneficial to the learning environment," said Ian
Boyko, a University of Windsor student who heads the Canadian
Federation of Students, a national student group.

The diversity is the natural result of a relatively open admissions
process, rather than an elaborate attempt to enroll students of varied
backgrounds. And it gives the campus a cosmopolitan flavor.

Johnson recalls debating Mideast politics in his dorm hallway with
students from Lebanon and Israel, and working on the school newspaper
staff with colleagues from Hong Kong, India and Pakistan.

"I was a classics major, and there were Greek-speaking students in a
number of my classes who could speak with authority about these
regions in modern times," he said.

Though there is no club for American students, they manage to find one
another ? especially at times like Canadian Thanksgiving. The
celebration is much like its American counterpart, but occurs in
October, leaving Americans and other foreigners alone on campus.

The Americans say they can easily identify countrymen by the way they
talk. "If somebody says ´out´ you´ll know," said Lesley Wake, a McGill
freshman from Monrovia, referring to the cross-border differences in
pronunciation of some vowels.

Students from the U.S. say they appreciate the atmosphere, on campus
and off. At the base of a mountain, McGill is full of ivy-covered 19th
century stone Beaux-Arts buildings that were once the mansions of the
city´s wealthiest families. The school´s main entrance fronts downtown
Montreal´s luxury hotels and office towers.

Just east of the campus is one of the city´s nightclub zones, which
students roam freely in a country whose drinking age is 18. Dan
Seeman´s mother, Kris, recalled that her son and Monday made up their
minds during a visit last year after seeing what McGill ? and Montreal
? had to offer.

"The clincher was what a nice place it is," Kris Seeman said. "After
we had been to two or three unbelievably good restaurants, Dan and
Oliver said, ´We think we´ll go here. There´s no downside.´ "

Now that so many Americans have warmed to McGill, however, Munroe-Blum
does not see the university enrolling U.S. students much beyond
current levels, even if it makes admission tougher for Americans.
"We´re not going to become an American university. That´s not the
goal," she said.

For some Americans, at least, that is precisely Canada´s appeal.

(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
okay, insecure boy.
(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
NO Doubt, McGill is more prestigious than UofT.

Concordia attracts many American students too, probably more than UofT too.

(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
oh dear! why do you canucks have to display your inferiority compex so blatantly? please get over it.
(in reply to: America's View on Canadian Universities)
What´s the point of all this?

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