A number of strict controls were built into the process to help to ensure that those included in the sample represent Canadian undergraduates.
This year, the rankings approach of previous years has been replaced with a rating method, based on letter grades. As in past report cards, a mean score for each university is calculated for each question, based on the responses of students who attend that school. But, in 2004, universities have been assigned a letter grade that matches their mean scores out of a maximum of 5.0 for each variable. The letter grading is based on the following grid:
A+ = 4.6 and above
A = 4.4 A- = 4.2
B+ = 4.0
B = 3.8
C = 3.2
C- = 3.0
D = Less than 3.0
This approach to grading was developed from analyzing the distribution of mean scores from an index variable, developed from an aggregate score based on each of the measurements of satisfaction about the university-experience examined in the survey. The grid was then applied to the mean score of responses received from each university, for each variable, and grades were assigned based on the mean score received. Because sample sizes are significantly smaller when comparing one university to another, there may not be statistically significant differences separating universities that receive different letter grades (i.e. 'A' versus 'A-'), although their mean scores are different.
This year, universities are also grouped into three size ranges:
Large: Enrolment over 25,000
Medium: Between 12,500 and 25,000
Small: Under 12,500
"With the change from first-to-last rankings to letter-grade scores, the report card can be used to see the overall picture of any one university, and also to compare universities of similar size with each other," said Tim Woolstencroft, managing partner of The Strategic Counsel, which analyzed the data.
As in previous years, the ratings provided in the University Report Card are based solely on student opinion, derived from answers to the more than 100 questions.