Organizations and individuals have been ranking nursing and allied health schools for years. In the US a whole industry has arisen focused on the business of ranking universities and colleges, including undergraduate nursing and health care schools (US News & World Report, National Institute of Health). In Canada, on the other hand, there are no specific rankings focused exclusively on Canadian undergraduate nursing and allied health programs.

Canadian publications like MacLean's Magazine, however, do conduct an annual ranking of Canadian universities for their "undergraduate experience," and The Globe & Mail newspaper also publishes their "University Report." In addition, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council ranks schools on amount of research grants awarded. International students can also look at the ranking of universities in general to see which ones that offer nursing and allied health programs in Canada make the list. For example, international students can consult US News and World Report's "World's Best Colleges: Top Canadian Universities." Canadian universities also regularly feature in more general world university rankings, by publications like The Princeton Review, BusinessWeek, The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) from the UK and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) based in Shanghai, China. These general rankings are designed to identify the "best" graduate and undergraduate institutions according to quality and value.

Therefore, although indirectly, Canadian undergraduate nursing and allied health schools are indeed ranked! However, rankings differ greatly in their methodologies and, therefore, their results. The Globe and Mail, for instance, relies on undergraduate student surveys on topics like student faculty interaction, course availability and quality of teaching, while Maclean's uses university data, such as spending on student services, scholarships and bursaries, funding for libraries, faculty success in obtaining national research grants. Maclean's also does not rank schools with fewer than 1,000 full-time students, and some universities themselves criticize the ranking process and refuse to participate (by not providing requested data).

How then should international students interpret these rankings? First, the ranking reports often come with detailed data to support conclusions, and while data collection may be criticized, the editors of these reports usually make an effort to ensure that statistics are comparable. So the reports can be used by you to compare institutions and schools on the basis of the data provided.

Second, the statistics that come from the rankings can also suggest topics that need to be studied in more detail. For instance, if you find that a high percentage of students participate in an internship experience and that few opportunities are in western Canada, you might want to investigate or ask why few students go to this region of the country.

All university rankings have one other thing in common: they are a list of institutions and schools in Canada. Scanning the list might suggest a nursing and allied health school in Canada that you had not considered or perhaps even heard of. Used this way, the rankings can help expand your list of schools in Canada that can then be researched in more detail.

However, you should never judge a school based on school rankings alone. Nursing and allied health school rankings are important, but there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration. Schools that are less prominent may have a program that suits your needs better than any nationally ranked schools. Lesser known regional schools can also be a good choice if you want a different, less urban Canadian experience during your studies. Often times, these schools have the strongest relationships with local industries and smaller classes. Once you have accumulated this information, you can create your own nursing and allied health school rankings.