In the recently published 2009 Times Higher Education - QS World University Rankings, the University of Toronto claimed 29th spot, an improvement on its 41st place in 2008. Regarded as one of the top universities in North America, the University of Toronto is currently in the midst of ambitious development plans under its fifteenth president, Professor David Naylor. Topgradschool.com talks to him about the vibrancy of the student community and his plans for the future of one of Canada's premier universities.
When asked what the greatest strength of the University of Toronto is, Professor Naylor leaves you with no doubts as to his view. People: he says, one could look to the university's extraordinary traditions or point out the exciting dynamism of the cities of Toronto and Mississauga, but what really matters is the extraordinary people - diverse, dynamic, committed and far more cohesive than many realize. This is a big place, but people forge their own communities inside it. Our alumni represent a living advertisement for the excellence of the institution. It all comes back to the people.
Established in 1827, the University of Toronto is Canada's largest university. It is located on three campuses, and with over 70,000 students, ten percent of whom come from overseas, the University is characterized by an internationally-orientated academic curriculum and staff. With close to half a million former students, the alumni community is both significant and wide ranging. Two former members of the University staff are Nobel Prize winners, the most recent being in 1986, and research work undertaken at the University is closely related to innovations that impact on the 'real world,' the most well known of which is probably the electronic heart pacemaker.
Professor Naylor's appreciation of what makes the University unique is built on an association with Toronto stretching back over thirty years. Graduating from the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in 1978, Naylor's international outlook received an early boost through his time at Oxford, where he studied social policy and administration as a Rhodes scholar. On joining the Faculty of Medicine in 1987, he pioneered significant changes to Canada's health policy and, in 2005, he was chosen as the University of Toronto's fifteenth president.
Growth in our scholarship programs is also a priority
Since becoming president, Professor Naylor has initiated the development of a strategic plan for the University called 'Towards 2030: A Third Century of Excellence. The plan focus on a growth in enrolment for graduate and professional programs and a slight reduction in the undergraduate student population. Other major initiatives include a greater access to research opportunities for undergraduates and an increased focus on the recruitment of international students. But planning is only the beginning for Professor Naylor. Once we've clarified our strategy, the harder work of implementation begins, he says. Better communication with high-school guidance counsellors, advertising, visits to selected schools, involving local alumni in recruitment - these are part of the picture. Growth in our scholarship programs is also a priority. Currently, the university bestows some 1,400 admission scholarships - valued at a few hundred dollars to several thousand - to the top incoming students each year. Yet fewer than 400 students receive scholarships valued at the level of tuition in their first year.
The role of international students and the international environment are central to the development of the University. Professor Naylor believes that to ensure its continued success the University will need to become even more international in orientation. Our growing internationalism is a great strength, he explains.
In journals and at conferences, University of Toronto students and faculty develop and exchange ideas with colleagues in other countries who are also leaders in their field. The University has formed strong partnerships with top-ranked universities around the world to open doors for students and to create opportunities for faculty to be global academic leaders. Some agreements permit masters and PhD students as well as faculty to work on research teams at partner institutions.