Quest University is proving that bigger isn't always better.
A recent survey of students from leading higher education centres around the world revealed that the student body of the Squamish campus gave Quest's faculty and facility top marks.
Ahead of preview day, March 9, Quest had 587 applications from potential first-year students. The school's director of admissions, Keely Stott, said 180 new first-year students would be accepted for the 2013-2014 academic year. Helfand noted that the growth in applications to Quest has been growing by 40 per cent a year.
The annual day held for potential new students and their parents took place just a few days after the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) results were released. The results showed that 92 per cent of the graduating students rated their experience at Quest as excellent.
Dr. David Helfand heads the small independent, not-for-profit, secular university with its student population of a little more than 400. He said he was pleased with the NSSE results.
"Not only are we ranked first in Canada in all five key measures of educational excellence, the NSSE results actually understate our distinction," said Helfand. "At Quest, 90 per cent of our students participate in the survey, meaning it reflects the overall student body experience, while at other schools, average participation rates are only 32 per cent — the most engaged 32 per cent who are willing go through a 100-plus question survey for no grade or other reward."
Small class sizes that average 15 students and don't exceed 20, along with the close relationships students form with the faculty led to the glowing NSSE results, a result described by Maclean's magazine as number one in educational excellence across Canada.
In an interview during the Quest preview day, Helfand explained his school doesn't have any lecture halls. Lessons at Quest are delivered in seminar rooms. Helfand said students who are educated in lecture halls don't function as well in the work world as students who learn through a seminar setting where collaboration and team dynamics separate education at Quest from experiences at larger universities.
"That's the advantage that our students are walking away with and it's quite dramatic," said Helfand.
"As our chief academic officer likes to say, 'Our goal here is to institutionalize revolution' so we need change," said the president and vice-chancellor of Quest.
"Columbia's courses haven't changed since 1947. That causes certain problems because the world has changed," said Helfand of how large schools like Columbia University operate.
Quest students spend a significant amount of their time at the school away from the campus on learning adventures. Helfand said the next major school trip in the planning process is an adventure to the Antarctic Peninsula.
While the students enjoy their summer break Quest plans to open its doors to adult learners with a program called Renew Your Quest. The adult summer retreat is scheduled for July 7 to 12 with subjects ranging from political language, media and political thinking to discussions on how to clone genes. The adult learners will live on campus for the weeklong retreat.
A similar pre-university offering is entering its sixth summer for kids between Grades 10 and 12. Keen high school learners can spend between one and three weeks at Quest studying subjects like psychology and geology mixed with optional recreational activities.
More information on Quest and its programs can be found at questu.ca.