UNBC named No. 1 by Maclean’s magazine

UNBC has been named the best university in its category in the Maclean's magazine annual rankings.

It's the first time the University of Northern B.C. has earned that honour. It was runner-up last year, but this year took the top spot in "primarily undergraduate" among 19 universities.

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"I think it really confirms what a lot of folks in the north already know, that this is a great university and that it's producing top-flight students that are really taking on the leadership positions," said university president Daniel Weeks of the news announced Wednesday afternoon.

While the crown is new, UNBC has become used to figuring high in the rankings, with second-place finishes in 2014, 2012 and 2008.

"It's always better when you're number one," said Weeks with a laugh, but the best part of the upgrade is that a new category rating student satisfaction helped UNBC get there.

"It was the fact that we placed very strongly in that category," Weeks said.

"That strong showing and support from our students is really what pushed us over the top. That is the most satisfying thing."

But do the Maclean's rankings have an impact on enrollment?

"Absolutely," Weeks said. "You feel it right across the country. We're going to be working on a plan now to really ramp up our recruitment efforts."

Stephen Rader, Faculty Association president, said he'd like to see UNBC become a destination campus.

"I keep hoping that one day our high Maclean's rankings will translate to into more students coming here from around the country," said Rader, a chemistry professor. "There are certainly students from far and wide but not as many as I would have hoped given how consistently high our rankings have been."

Rader said the achievement is a real recognition of everybody's hard work.

"It's one of these things that it's completely a team effort and it's only because everybody's pulling together that you accomplish something like that."

UNBC finished in the top five in seven different categories including student awards, total research dollars, library acquisitions, student to faculty ratio, faculty awards, operating budget per full-time student and library expenses.

Some of those areas shouldn't come as a surprise, Weeks said, and can be seen as hallmarks of the institution.

"We're a research university. If we're not (placing top-five), I would be wondering, 'what are we doing wrong?'" he said. "Everything we're doing well in I think are things we pride ourselves in."

UNBC ranked low when it came to student residences, which are the oldest buildings on campus.

"These buildings are in need of a bit of a spruce up in some cases and in fact we do have a plan to do just that over the next year or two," he said.

An area where UNBC ranked lower - student graduation - isn't necessarily a bad thing, Weeks said. Many students start their careers at UNBC, then transfer, he explained.

"The fact that our students can go on to other universities across Canada and succeed means that we provide them with a great start and a great foundation."

The annual reminder is a chance for the university to reflect on what it's doing well.

"It does help us," Weeks said. "We don't change course of the whole ship based on a series of rankings but it tells us, gives us one indication at least: are we spending time and effort on areas that count?

"And I think overall this result says that we do."

UNBC finished ahead of Trent University in second and the University of Lethbridge in third place.

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