Postsecondary administrators around the world pay attention to the QS ratings (an annual private international ranking of universities). And this year, officials at Concordia University were thrilled when their city, Montreal, topped the list of best student cities in the world, coming ahead of second- and third-place finishers Paris and London. The next-highest in Canada was Vancouver, which came 10th.
“One of the things we continuously hear from students in Montreal is it’s an affordable city,” Concordia’s director of student recruitment, Matthew Stiegemeyer, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “There’s good housing. There’s good opportunity to live right downtown and engage with a variety of festivals and cultural experiences. We’ve got the Mount Royal Park in the middle of the city.”
According to Concordia's Graduate Programs Viewbook 2018-19, the average annual cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Montreal is $10,200. That's less than half the average of $20,630 per year in Vancouver and far below the annual cost of $19,330 in Toronto.
In recent years, Concordia has also been making a big push into trying to tackle social issues, integrating technology to assist underserved areas. A large university such as Concordia, with its 46,000 undergraduate and graduate students, can have a significant impact when its resources are focused on community development.
“It’s been kind of an exciting time to see that trickle down to the undergraduate experience,” Stiegemeyer said.
This is manifesting itself in a multitude of ways, including through Concordia’s District 3 Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It brings together resources from government, the corporate sector, research, and academics to help student innovators and entrepreneurs launch new concepts with confidence.
According to Stiegemeyer, it is “helping students realize their business plans and develop how to put their ideas into the marketplace”.
“We don’t get trapped into traditional silo thinking,” he said. “We’re working across disciplines.”
The interdisciplinary approach has been embraced by arts and sciences dean André Roy, who is eager to demonstrate the benefits of a bachelor of arts degree.
“He’s really pushed on helping students get a broad experience of what they’re going to encounter in the classroom,” Stiegemeyer said. “That opens up creative thinking so they can troubleshoot a variety of problems in the business world.”
Concordia offers undergraduate degrees in a wide variety of disciplines, including urban studies and urban planning, journalism, contemporary dance, and business-technology management. It’s also known for its progressive student body, which pressed in 2014 to become the first university in Canada to begin divesting from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, Concordia’s entrance requirements are not as onerous as those at UBC and SFU. For example, Stiegemeyer said, it’s possible to gain admission to some bachelor of arts programs with a high-school average of 70 to 75 percent. Business and engineering programs require higher averages, in the 80-to-85-percent zone, he added.
Those who can’t make the cut in areas with more demanding admission standards can upgrade their grade-point average on campus and then transfer into their desired program.
“We’ve maintained that as an easy route for people who basically come in and prove they’ve got what it takes to get into the John Molson School of Business or one of our engineering programs or actuarial math,” Stiegemeyer said. “[Here] the entrance requirements are higher, but there’s still a clear path even if you’re not the A+ student in high school.”
Even though Concordia has two campuses, four faculties, a school of graduate studies, and many centres and institutes, there are still opportunities to enjoy a smaller-university feel. Stiegemeyer cited a program focusing on religion and culture as one example: it has a small cohort of students who remain together for three or four years.
“We’ve still maintained a pretty small average class size,” Stiegemeyer said. “The last time I checked, it was 27 or 29. Part of that is making sure that all those big classes have a lab or a tutorial—something that really lets you dip into the material so you can’t just cruise through.”
The university was created in 1974 after a merger of Loyola College and Sir George Williams University.
The Loyola campus is in the western district of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, which is one of the commercial hubs for Montreal's anglophone community. The George William campus is downtown and houses the John Molson School of Business.
For more information, visit the Concordia University website.More