Universities have challenging and diverse responsibilities. Each and every student challenges the university to deliver a truly positive and life enriching experience. The ever-changing world of scholarship constantly challenges universities to contribute new knowledge and innovation. The broader society demands that universities go beyond the development of talent and knowledge, to be defenders of values and truth.
Since its founding in 1853, St. Francis Xavier University has fulfilled its responsibilities to successive generations at the local, national, and international levels. From proud but humble beginnings in the rural communities of Nova Scotia, StFX has become a university recognized as one of Canada’s best.
A Period of Momentum
StFX is currently in a period of tremendous momentum. The calibre of entering students has reached new heights.
Research and other forms of scholarship have grown exponentially over the past decade. National recognition has come in the form of ratings which have recognized StFX as the number one primarily undergraduate university in Canada over the past several years. On the international level, StFX, through the Coady International Institute, has extended its leadership education and transformational support to communities in over 120 countries.
All of this has been supported by a campus renewal program totaling a quarter of a billion dollars. Academic facilities for sciences, arts, and business have all been upgraded to nationally competitive standards. New and renovated university accommodations have brought the residential density to the highest in Canada. Most important of all, StFX students have consistently given the highest overall satisfaction ratings of any university in Canada. Alumni support has followed suit.
The Future of Undergraduate Education in Canada
The landscape of undergraduate education in Canada is changing in both positive and negative ways.
On the positive side of the equation, students have never had broader and more diverse opportunities. Program choice has never been greater. Student engagement in research has expanded. Opportunities for experiential learning and international exchanges have become available to more students than ever before. The choices of leadership, volunteer, and personal development possibilities outside the classroom are truly phenomenal.
On the negative side of the equation, the quality of undergraduate education for many Canadian students has been under threat. The majority of Canadian students are at very large and growing universities where undergraduate education has been marked by larger and larger classes with less and less undergraduate teaching being done by fulltime faculty. The statistics show a clear pattern of shifting undergraduate teaching to parttime faculty and graduate students. Research and graduate programs, both of which are obviously highly valuable in the mix, have drawn energy and resources from the focus on
undergraduate education. Laments are heard from some quarters that an even greater focus on research and graduate programs is what Canada should fund as a priority.
At StFX, we believe deeply in the fundamental relationship between research and teaching. But we are among the universities in Canada where the undergraduate remains the clear and undisputed priority.
Undergraduates have direct and constant exposure to full-time faculty from the day they arrive until the day they graduate. There is no army of graduate students and no mega classrooms that engulf hundreds of first year students.
If student satisfaction is the highest in Canada, it is because StFX sticks to the fundamentals of quality undergraduate education.