The Universities

My database covers Canada’s top 25 universities. That’s not a reference to quality but to size, based simply on their incomes.

Those schools were the top 25 in 1988, when I first started to compile and analyze the data. In those days, the limitations of technology and my own time were such that I had to draw the line somewhere, and the top 25 seemed like a good place.

While some of the universities have fallen outside that income-based top 25 at varying points in the intervening years, the Top 25 today is the same as it was 1988.

That top 25 incorporates a wide array of universities. While they have much in common, there are also differences. For that reason, some of the analysis addresses sub-groupings containing universities of similar focus (and, because PSE in Québec displays marked differences) even geography. These sub-groups are as follows:

  • Top 25
  • U-15
  • U-15 Excluding Québec
  • U-15 Québec
  • The “Big 5”
  • The Top 3

The U-15 consists of “Canada’s research-focused universities”. They view themselves as direct peers, which is why they created the U-15 organization ( to promote themselves, and to provide an arena in which they can interact and cooperate. (The geographical distinction was included in the sub-groupings to reflect the significant differences between PSE in Québec and PSE in the remainder of Canada.)

The “Big 5” set themselves apart when they met with Paul Wells, of Macleans, in 2009 to outline a vision for their schools that would intentionally have that affect.

The Top 3 does not reflect a calibre judgment so much as a geographical grouping. The Top 3 consists of the Top 5 schools outside of Québec, where (as noted above) some key PSE factors are approached differently.

For those whose universities do not feature in the analysis on this site, all is not lost. Many of the issues appear to be quite common, and it is likely that they will apply to schools right across the size spectrum. The degree to which this is true for your school can be determined by going through the same process that I used – pulling data from the sources I accessed, and conducting your own analysis.

The schools covered in this analysis, together with their General Operating expenditures, are summarized HERE.


A word about the Group Averages used on this Site

Most of the group averages involve a calculation based on the dollar totals for the entire group. While this approach skews the averages towards the larger schools in each group, it removes the possibility of aberrational percentages at individual schools skewing the group average.