Nursing program ranks 4th in world, students still critical

Given the nursing program’s “decades of depth,” professor Olive Yonge isn’t surprised at its near-the-top ranking. Students, on the other hand, feel less sure.

Nursing programs were included for the first time ever in the 2016 QS World University Rankings by Subject, an annual publication by Quacquarelli Symonds. The U of A ranked fourth, behind the University of Pennsylvania, John Hopkins University and the University of Toronto.

The rankings, published March 22, used research publication data and surveys of academics and employers. Overall, 33 of the U of A’s subjects ranked in the top 200 of the world.

While the nursing program ranks fourth worldwide for reputation and research, some students are critical of the QS list, Lauren Lee, Vice-President (Academic) of the nursing faculty association said.

“When I talk to my nursing peers about (the ranking) there are some mixed reviews,” Lee said. “A lot of us are very happy about it, but if you look at the criteria, (almost) half of it is based on research.”

The QS rankings weigh an institution’s academic reputation, employer reputation, amount of research citations from the university. Weightings vary, but research factors into both academic reputation and publication quantity.

Students still have concerns with the program’s free-reign style of allowing students to come to logical conclusions themselves, which is used by the faculty to teach students critical, independent thinking. Some students think the program needs more guidance, Lee said. The program might be changing this way to complement the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), the new standardized test given to students at the end of their degrees. The NCLEX contains more knowledge-based questions instead of the “fluffy stuff” on the art of caring, Lee said.

Lee enjoys nursing because of its hands-on nature compared to sciences. Students in the program are exposed to healthcare systems in their first or second year — Lee was placed at the U of A and worked with health programs such as the immunization clinic. Originally from British Columbia, Lee said she chose the U of A because of its reputation for having passionate instructors.

Faculty of Nursing Dean Anita Molzahn credits professors in the faculty for the program’s strength because of their commitment to research, teaching and community service. It’s “gratifying” for nursing do so well given the reputation of other leading universities in the world, Molzahn said.

“Although ​​our strengths cannot be summed up by just numbers, external rankings like the QS World University Rankings ​indicate that ​others think ​we are on the right path,” Molzahn said. ​

Challenges arise with nursing’s popularity — this academic year, 1,486 students were registered in the undergraduate program. Of all faculties, nursing had the largest over-enrolment this year, about 85 students over target, according to a report by the registrar.

Ranking fourth in the world will likely help attract more nursing students from outside Edmonton  Olive Yonge said. Overall, nursing has been “doing well” internationally because of partnerships and outreach, she added. Currently the U of A works with with universities in the USA, Brazil, Ghana, Japan and Thailand to provide students with abroad opportunities.

Nursing has seen many changes over its time on campus — having been at the U of A since 1982, Yonge has guided curriculum changes and seen nursing become one of the first faculties to use online learning and videoconferencing.

“My colleagues embrace change, it’s part of our nursing DNA,” Yonge said. “I think if you can’t change, you really can’t function.”

Yonge said she’s happy with the nursing program within the wider scope of the university.

“The whole university has me in awe,” Yonge said. “I think, how did this landlocked prairie university become so prestigious? It’s always the people.”

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