There is a perception out there that Waterloo Engineering is a great place for a practical undergraduate education (I won’t argue with that), but when it comes to more theoretical graduate studies and research in Canada you should look to one of the other big names. I will argue with that, and of course present some data for analysis.
One way to characterize graduate studies and the intensity of research activity is to look at the number of PhD degrees awarded each year. Why PhD degrees? Well, to graduate someone with a PhD degree in North America requires a number of significant things including:
- The supervising professor has to compete and secure up to four years worth of research funding from government and/or industry sponsors to support the student financially, and to pay for access to research equipment, laboratory space and materials.
- The student has to complete some relevant and novel research over a 3 to 4 year period, that passes examination from people outside the university (as a form of quality control). The supervising professor helps direct things of course, but the student is expected to interact with other researchers and professors in developing their ideas, plans, and conclusions.
- It is expected that PhD students will participate in conferences and in publishing peer-reviewed journal articles about their work, with the professor’s input and assistance.
All of these things require a significant investment of time and effort by the university staff and faculty, and so a larger number of PhD degree awards tends to indicate a vibrant and active research community within the school, with lots of research funding flowing in from government and industry sponsors. It also indicates that there will be more opportunities for Masters students and undergraduate students to participate in the research too, working alongside the PhD students or on related topics.
Gathering data from four different engineering schools in Canada, we can compare the number of PhDs granted over the past 9 years.
The numbers clearly show that Waterloo and Toronto graduate similar numbers of engineering PhDs each year. McGill has been coming up a bit in recent years, and the University of British Columbia (UBC) has been somewhat lower lately. It would be interesting to look at trends and other large engineering schools like U of Alberta, but I’ll leave that for others.
The basic point is, Waterloo does have a lot of research activity and a large graduate program (almost 1,900 Masters and PhD students enrolled in 2016). If you are a high school student looking to have some research opportunities during your undergraduate engineering program, Waterloo can offer that.