1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What does this mean? (how good a school/program is)

  1. Jul 22, 2015 #1

    I often hear people say that a certain program (i.e. computer science, maths, etc) is better at one school than at another. For example, here in Canada a lot of people say that if you want to enter in to computer science you should go to the University of Waterloo, because they have a really good computer science program. I am not sure what this means. Is the material covered better explained by the profs? what determines the quality of the program? will you learn more efficiently in a good program?

    Thank you~
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2015 #2
    It usually has to do with the reputation of the professors, the department's funding, the available labs, maybe the funding for the students, the quality of the program's research output.

    Of course, it's a very vague description, and there can be a lot of variation. For instance, a department (or school) may be "lower ranked" yet still have one or two professors that are famous experts in their particular sub field.
  4. Jul 22, 2015 #3
    Ok, I think I have a better picture now, thanks
  5. Jul 22, 2015 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It should also be noted that success in terms of research reputation and success in terms of teaching are not the same thing. I have seen cases of super-star researchers with >100k citations doing a horrible job at teaching, and on the other hand, I was super-happy with my undergrad university which could maybe be best described as a "Top 500 in the World!!"-class institution. I do not think I could have gotten a better education elsewhere.

    If in doubt, I would recommend going to the place where the corresponding program is *larger*. A larger department with more professors in a specific area indicates that they take this area seriously, and also that there is much expertise and choice in various sub-disciplines. This increases the chance of finding something fascinating one might never have thought of before.
  6. Jul 22, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    It's good to be asking this question, because I find it's not all that uncommon for people touting one program's superiority to another have no idea what they're talking about.

    In Canada, Maclean's Magazine ranks universities annually and they use a metric based on a number of measurements. Some of these are subjective such as repuation scores through surveys. Others are more objective such as student to professor ratio, department funding, scholarships, publication quantity, etc.

    So when someone one school or department comes out better than another, it comes out that way based on the metric used. Some schools will specifically make an effort to increase their scores in these things - sometimes to the detriment of increasing other factors that are more important to students or faculty.

    What this means is that as a student, you need to do your homework and figure out what's important to you. For example, when I was an undergraduate, it was important that a school have volunteer opportunities that I was interested in. An external ranking system couldn't measure that because it couldn't weight the volunteer opportunities according to my interests.
  7. Jul 23, 2015 #6
    very interesting thank you everyone
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook