University of Alberta - Punching above its weight

University of Alberta – Punching above its weight

Published On
February 24, 2022

One of the biggest challenges companies are facing today is recruiting high-quality talent. It’s talent, after all that drives innovation, a key factor in sustaining any business’ competitive edge. It makes sense, then, that like many other economic development organizations out there, one of the key assets that Edmonton Global promotes about our region is…. our ‘world-class talent!’

But there’s more to it than buzzwords or the international investor’s language. There’s strong data to back the claim that our region produces a pipeline of smart and innovative employees.  The region is home to seven major post-secondary institutions offering 170 programs to 130,000 students, in 2018.[i] And our post-secondaries are attracting international talent; learners came to the region from at least 156 countries[ii].

In a previous blog I explained how our Young, Educated and Growing narrative is grounded in data and why it represents compelling value proposition for international investors.  For this blog, I’ll focus on the University of Alberta, our region’s biggest research university, to explain why I see this institution punching above its weight and why I see it as a major asset to international attention and investment into the region.

International Rankings

The University of Alberta has consistently ranked as a top tier institution since tracking began. And while the Edmonton Metropolitan Region is the fifth most populous region in Canada, our university is consistently ranked among the top four in Canada.

Before we dive into some of the numbers, I’d like to raise a note of caution; the work of ranking post-secondary institutions is an imperfect science. The methodologies employed by the various organizations doing the ranking varies, and so too then, do the results. For this reason, I wanted to start by looking at a cross section of some of the most popular ranking systems in the world. As you can see in Figure 1, the University of Alberta (UAlberta) is among the most well-regarded in Canada.

These rankings are truly impressive and to understand why, it’s important to look at the number of post-secondary institutions included in these rankings – in some cases tens of thousands of PSIs are being included. As one example, the Center for World University Rankings, ranked the University of Alberta 81st in the world in 2021 (or 4th in Canada) out of 19,788 examined[iii].  That puts UAlberta in the top 0.4% of universities globally.

Figure 1. International Ranking of Top 10 Canadian Universities by Year and Ranking System
Source: Edmonton Global based on various


Figure 2- University of Alberta in Comparison to Institutions Ranked by the Center for World University Rankings in 2021
Source: Center for World University Rankings

UAlberta also ranks well across disciplines.

When we look at the Leiden rankings out of the Netherlands, which bases its ranking on both quantity and quality of research publications, you can see that the University shows up really well.

Figure 3. Leiden Rankings for the University of Alberta by Discipline (2021)
Source Leiden Rankings 2021

And when we look at the National Taiwan University Ranking, which tracks 24 different fields, the University of Alberta places in the top 100 global universities in 14 categories (behind only University of Toronto and University British Columbia in Canada) (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Number of Fields in the top 100Global Rank by Canadian University
Source: NTU Ranking

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the University’s strengths. For this blog I am going to focus on areas related to Edmonton Global’s priority sectors (Computer Science, Health & Life Science, Agriculture and Engineering).

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence

The University of Alberta leads globally in computer science, especially in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.

Figure 5 shows that, since 1970, the University of Alberta has published more research papers in artificial intelligence than any other institution in the world with the exception of Tsinghua University in China and Carnegie Mellon University in the United States. The Edmonton region also ranks in the top 20 in the world (and first in Canada) in the fields of machine learning and robotics.

Figure 5. Rank of University of Alberta in Relation to other World Universities in Computer Science Fields

And there are spin-off benefits to this across the region. Building off these successes, other local post-secondary institutions have established programming to train professionals in similar fields. The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology offers an AI Strategy and Management Training program and Concordia University of Edmonton has the Centre for Applied Artificial Intelligence. Norquest also recently announced its own ML analyst program – the first two year program offered in Canada.  These offerings ensure the entire spectrum of skills related to artificial intelligence are being developed in the Edmonton region.

University of Alberta graduates are in high demand both locally and around the world. The top 10 organizations that have recruited the greatest number of UAlberta’s computer science grads are:

1.       University of Alberta 2.       Intuit
3.       Google 4.       TELUS
5.       Amazon 6.       Government of Alberta
7.       Microsoft 8.       Bioware
9.       IBM 10.   Apple
Source: University of Alberta Alumni Relations

Over the last five years, enrolment in University of Alberta’s Computing Science programs has more than doubled, making it one of the most sought-after undergraduate programs at the university. I expect more great things from the Edmonton region in computer science in the years to come.

Health and Life Sciences

The University ranks highly in research related to health and life sciences, particularly in areas around the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. Unlike some peer institutions, the University of Alberta has capabilities in both pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences – the two foundational disciplines needed to support the development of new medicines. Pharmacologists study mechanisms of action of drugs on the physiology of the human body – whereas pharmaceutical scientists study pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs both are needed to design and develop new drugs which positions the University of Alberta well to be a hub of pharmaceutical innovation.  The institution ranks well in this department across a number of ranking systems. For example, according to the QS ranking system we are 62nd in the world and 4th in Canada for “Pharmacy” whereas NTU ranking system puts us at 98th in the world and 3rd in Canada for “Pharmacology and Toxicology”[1].

Figure 6. QS University Rankings for the University of Alberta by Health Sciences Discipline (2021)
Source: QS University Rankings (2021)

And it is not just pharmacy that the University of Alberta excels in. Leiden Ranking puts the University of Alberta at 4th in Canada for overall Biomedical and Health Sciences.

According USNWR’s Best Global Universities ranking[iv] the University of Alberta is in the top 100 best schools in the world for eight life sciences disciplines. Gastroenterology and Hepatology (the field of medicine interested in the digestive system and liver) the University of Alberta ranks 2nd in Canada and 28th in the world (out of 1000 schools) – these are impressive rankings.


The University of Alberta has a long history of excellence in the field of agriculture (pun intended).

In their 2021 ranking, NTU placed the University of Alberta as 34th in the world for Agricultural Sciences (2nd in Canada). Similarly, in their 2022 rankings USNWR’s Best Global Universities rank the University as 49th in the World (3rd in Canada) for Food Science and 58th in the world (4th in Canada) for Agricultural Sciences.

Figure 7. US News’ Best Global Universities Rankings for the University of Alberta by AgriFood Discipline (2022)
Source: Best Global Universities Rankings (2022)


The University is particularly strong in engineering and ranks first in Canada in a number of disciplines including chemical engineering and mechanical engineering. If you have a chance, visit the Faculty of Engineering website – the faculty and its people have won hundreds of local, national and international awards for excellence across diverse engineering disciplines[v]. It’s no surprise that the province of  Alberta has almost double the number of engineers per capita compared to other provinces and the Edmonton Region graduates the majority of Alberta’s Engineers and STEM  talent.

Figure 8 NTU Rankings for the University of Alberta by Engineering Discipline (2021)
Source: NTU Rankings 2021


Globally, competition for talent is fierce – and the Edmonton region truly does have an advantage in this area. With the University of Alberta, and six other post-secondaries in the region, we have a reliable talent pipeline producing highly skilled professionals- across disciplines. Whether you need highly skilled professionals for your next agriculture processing plant or software company expansion the Edmonton region has the talent you are looking for.

The University of Alberta is a globally recognized center of research excellence, and its graduates will continue to be in high demand locally and around the world.


[i] EMR _Education