Comparing around 800 of the top institutions out a sample set of 3,000 universities, the QS World University Rankings have become one of the key yardsticks with which to measure academic provision, student satisfaction, and vocational prospects following graduation, alongside Times Higher Education Rankings and Shanghai Jiao Tong Rankings. In recent times many Canadian universities have been greeted with confirmation of their increased global reputation upon publication of the annual QS report.

The QS methodology, more often than not on the receiving end of disapproval and criticism, weights its performance indicators with a stress on the academic reputation of each institution in the eyes of its peers. Allocated almost half of the assessment criteria, this approach has led to many leading industry experts, bloggers, and rival university research tables to decry the lack of rigor, objectivity, and credibility of the QS Rankings. Yet with 63,700 responses from its academic reputation survey alone, it’s hard not to see why the QS brand dominates global focus, despite the obstacles its methodology places before younger, less visible universities.

But this is rarely a complaint voiced in Canada, whose universities are achieving increased renown in the QS system. This year’s Canada top 10, with overall position in the world rankings shown in brackets, is:

1 (20) University of Toronto  

2 (21) McGill University

3 (43) University of British Columbia  

4 (83) Université de Montréal  

5 (84) University of Alberta

6 (113) McMaster University

7 (169) University of Waterloo

8 (171) University of Calgary  

9 (187) Queen’s University, Ontario

10 (191) Western University

Canadian students and prospective international arrivals will be familiar with the annual battle between McGill University and the University of Toronto to be named the highest-ranked Canadian university. The gap narrows each year with Toronto dropping from 17th to 20th place this time, giving McGill a real chance next year. But the real insights are to be sought on a year-by-year basis: surging up the tables, many Canadian institutions are managing to show real promise and while only three feature in the top 50, it is likely that within a few years that number will double or even treble. One of many success stories is that of the Université de Montréal, which rose from 92nd place to 83rd this year.

The University of Alberta has shown yet more progress, jumping 12 spots for the second year in a row. This steady rise has been in evidence for the last five years and is a product of Alberta’s increased visibility in research citations and a steady boost in employer and academic reputation. Beyond the top 20, Dalhouse University has shown startling progress and could find itself in the top 10 next year. Outside of the tables themselves, the University of Waterloo has become one of only 11 world universities to achieve a 5+ QS Stars global ranking, placing it alongside such powerhouses as MIT in the USA and Monash University in Australia. But the top spot remains the preserve of the University of Toronto that also outranks its national counterparts in all disciplines, from the arts to management.