The University of Waterloo is being recognized for the research efforts of its faculty for the fifth year in a row.
Waterloo ranked first among Canadian institutions in the comprehensive category for Research Infosource Inc.’s list of the 50 top research universities in the country. The University of Guelph and the University of Victoria ranked second and third, respectively.
“It’s very important for us,” UW president Feridun Hamdullahpur said about the school’s ranking.
“To be there you have to have the proper resources and funding and it is very important for our researchers and graduate students to have that funding so that they can do all the exciting research.”
For the comprehensive category, Research Infosource ranks each institution based on five measures that consider the amount of funding faculty receives and the intensity and impact of the research published. Medical/doctoral and undergraduate are two other categories Research Infosource ranks.
Medical schools are a major draw for research funding and can represent more than 80 per cent of a university’s total research funding.
In the overall top 50 rankings, Waterloo placed 15th. All of the higher-ranked universities, with the exception of the University of Guelph, have medical programs.
“It’s really an achievement when a university without a medical school is able to crack the top group. I think it’s a testament to all the other great things Waterloo does,” said Ron Freedman, chief executive officer of Research Infosource Inc.
Hamdullahpur said UW does receive some health-related research funding largely due to its faculty of applied health sciences. However, it also receives funding for diverse programs from nanotechnology to psychology.
That research conducted in UW’s many faculties is important and has real-world impact, said Hamdullahpur.
Overall, university research funding increased by only 2.2 per cent in 2011 — the lowest average annual increase in the past decade. Of Canada’s top 50 schools, 16 saw a decrease in their research funding.
The funding dilemma can be attributed to several factors, according to Freedman, including cutbacks in provincial grants and financial difficulties in the corporate sector.
UW saw a funding increase of 1.7 per cent last year. That fell below the national average but UW fared much better than other Ontario universities, which saw an average funding decrease of two per cent.
“It is a challenge for all the universities, not only in Ontario and Canada but most developed countries,” said Hamdullahpur. “That doesn’t mean the trend will continue.”
If funding remains elusive in the coming years, Hamdullahpur said UW will respond by focusing on its strengths, keeping research a priority and looking at diversifying its funding sources.
“I think as long as we’re maintaining our focus (and) investing in people, our research impact will grow regardless,” Hamdullahpur said.