University Rankings: Round 4 – Times Higher Ed

Next up in the international university rankings, we have the 2012/2013 Times Higher Education (THE) rankings.  More specifically, we’ll look at the Engineering & Technology rankings.


I’ve had trouble trying to figure out this methodology.  According to their website, the weighting of the different factors is given at the foot of the tables, but I can’t find it!  So here’s a summary of the general methodology (used for overall rankings?), although it may be a bit different for the Engineering & Technology subject grouping. Continue reading

University Rankings: Round 2 – Webometrics

The “Ranking Web of Universities” or Webometrics ranking was recently updated.  I have never noticed it in the past, so it’s new to me.  The first thing to say is that it is a university-wide ranking, and not specific to Engineering.  In the sub-section for Canada, Waterloo ranks #11, and #198 worldwide.  Not bad I suppose, but as usual let’s look at what it is actually measuring. Continue reading

University Rankings: Round 1 – ARWU

The first set of university rankings has been released for this academic year.  This is the ARWU (academic ranking of world universities) put out by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  I’m going to focus on the rankings of “Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences” category, since that’s most relevant to my interests, and they can be found at this link.  Since prospective students and parents sometimes spend a lot of time and effort pondering on the meaning of these rankings, let’s go through them together. Continue reading

About Engineer Stereotypes

Here’s a nice post about engineering stereotypes, and the importance of adapting to change. In Engineering Education, we might refer to this as “lifelong learning”, but similar idea. When we talk with prospective students, it’s important to dispel these old stereotypes, so thanks to the author!

From the Editor's Desk

My August column in Mechanical Engineering magazine.

The overplayed stereotype always had something to do with a socially inept engineer sporting a short-sleeve white shirt and slim black tie, big horn-rimmed glasses, and a pocket protector overstuffed with BIC pens. He always seemed to be working alone in some lab trying to figure out a way to calculate a new formula.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but that guy is gone and with him the stereotype of who engineers are. If you think I’m kidding, you haven’t been paying attention. Hopefully, most of you are part of the transformation. If you’re not, look around you and see the young woman sitting a few feet away; she’s the new project manager. To her left, the guy with the tattoo is just home to Seattle from Bolivia and wants to go back to help build a new plant for a burgeoning…

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Repeated Courses and Why We Care

Admission to our Engineering programs requires the completion of certain Grade 12 courses (or equivalents in various other school systems), specifically Functions, Calculus, English, Chemistry and Physics in Ontario.  For many years we have discouraged the idea of re-taking any of these required courses to boost marks and get a competitive edge for admission.  In recent years, this has taken the form of a penalty of around 5% points off the overall average of the required courses if one or more are repeated (the higher grade is used).  The net effect is that unless the repeated course(s) add at least another 30 percentage points to the total, repeating a course is not worthwhile for competitive advantage in admissions.  In many cases, repeating course(s) will knock the application out of the competition completely.  Other universities seem to have a range of approaches, from accepting repeats without question to ignoring the improved grade completely.  So, we’re somewhere in between.  But why use this penalty approach? Continue reading

What Do Engineers Do?

Here’s a great post about what it’s like to be an electrical engineer. These are the sorts of stories we like to use to help prospective students decide on their career path, so thanks to the author!

An Engineering Woman

When you think of what an engineer does on a daily basis, what comes to mind?  Do you think we sit around and solve math problems all day?  Maybe you think we sit in a cube and work on our projects alone.

Well, I have to confess that I don’t perform calculations all day.  I’m sure that there are some engineers who spend time “doing the math”, but most of the calculations I do are either relatively simple or I rely on software to do it for me.

So, what is life as an engineer like?  What do I do in a typical day?  Considering that engineers aren’t typically known for their communication skills, I spend a considerable amount of time communicating via emails, in meetings and on conference calls.  Oftentimes, I am communicating with colleagues around the world.  (It gets really interesting when you have an engineer in Mexico…

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Private Schools: caveat emptor

Caveat emptor:  a Latin legal term for “let the buyer beware”

I was recently advised about a private school in the Greater Toronto Area that had its credit-granting authority revoked by the Ontario Ministry of Education (a list of revocations is available here).  Meaning?  Anyone we admitted with a required course credit from that school may have to have their admission offer revoked. Staff are looking into it, but it raises once again the issue of private schools and university admission. Continue reading

Engineering Admissions by Lottery?

The Tenured Radical blog on the Chronicle of Higher Education website has a post reflecting on the possible use of a lottery system for admission to competitive universities. Under this system, we would just identify everyone who meets our minimum admission requirements (maybe an 80% average for the required courses?), then run a random selection process that fills the seats.  There are some tempting reasons to do this. Continue reading