Concordia University packs a lot of programs onto its two Montreal campuses

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      Most Vancouver residents have heard of Toronto, McGill, and Dalhousie universities, which are three of Canada’s oldest English-language postsecondary institutions. Concordia University in Montreal, however, isn’t nearly as well known across the country, even though it has one of the largest student bodies in the country.

      Formed through the merger of Sir George Williams University and Loyola College in 1974, it has 37,053 undergraduate students and 9,040 graduate students this year.

      It’s perhaps most famous for the John Molson School of Business, which relies on group learning and the case-study model of instruction.

      The list of undergraduate programs at Concordia runs the gamut from journalism to engineering to urban studies. Some people are attracted by its highly regarded bachelor of arts in actuarial mathematics. Others are drawn by its athletic programs.

      About 8.5 percent of the students are Canadians from outside Quebec.

      “A lot of our B.C. applicants are interested in our fine-arts programs,” Concordia’s director of student recruitment, Matthew Stiegemeyer, told the Straight by phone. “It’s one of the largest fine-arts faculties rooted in a university.”

      One of the newest faculty members, artist Kelly Jazvac, is a sculptor who is part of an interdisciplinary plastics-pollution research group.

      Her work is a reflection that at Concordia, fine arts is not only about creating things but also about advancing cultural discussions about issues of importance to society.

      Stiegemeyer said that the same outward-looking approach is embraced in urban studies, where there is a great deal of research into the “future-city concept”.

      Out-of-province students are attracted to Concordia by the relatively low cost of living in Montreal compared to other places in Canada.

      According to Statistics Canada data, the average rent in the city in 2016 was $835 per month. In eight of the city’s boroughs, the average was less than $800 per month.

      “Certainly, the cost-of-living component stands out,” Stiegemeyer said.

      The globally recognized QS rankings listed Montreal as the best student city in the world in 2017; this year, it came first in North America and ranked fourth in the world behind London, Tokyo, and Melbourne.

      The rankings are based on such things as the mix of students, desirability (including livability, safety, and pollution levels), employer activity, affordability, and student experience.

      Montreal has a vibrant nightlife with a European feel. Because there are four universities and 12 colleges in the city, the local government places a high priority on ensuring there is enough accommodation for students.

      Stiegemeyer pointed out that Montreal is an old city, so it’s possible to rent units in century-old buildings with high ceilings, old wood floors, and a sense of history.

      “It adds to that sense of exoticism,” he said.

      There’s a fully built out rapid-transit system. In addition, Concordia runs its own buses between the downtown campus—home to the business, engineering, and fine-arts faculties—and the Loyola campus six kilometres away. It’s full of green space and houses communications, journalism, psychology, and other programs, as well as the university’s sports facilities.

      Stiegemeyer added one other benefit of living in Montreal—the food. Because Quebec has a vibrant agricultural sector, there’s plenty of healthy dining options.

      “There’s also a real commitment to the outdoors,” he said, noting the popularity of cycling trails around he city and in one of Montreal’s most popular destinations, the 209-hectare Parc Jean-Drapeau.

      Named after one of the city’s most colourful mayors, it was the site of the Expo 67 World Fair and includes an environmental museum, a Formula 1 racetrack, and the city’s largest outdoor-concert venue.