Waterloo EDC Blog

Five astounding facts about the University of Waterloo

Posted by Waterloo EDC on July 30, 2019

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The University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) is the largest of our community’s three post-secondary institutions and has a well-deserved reputation for churning out some of the world’s most talented computer science and engineering graduates.

The New York Times has called it “one of the world’s top technology schools,” and The Wall Street Journal has noted that the “school’s graduates are the second-most-frequently hired in Silicon Valley.”

Some of UWaterloo’s most famous and influential former students include smartphone inventor and BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis, Engineers without Borders co-founder Parker Mitchell and Vitalik Buterin, who co-founded Ethereum and Bitcoin Magazine. The university is also home to Donna Strickland, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in more than 50 years.

UWaterloo might be a mid-sized institution, small by American standards, but it punches well above its weight.

Here are five astounding facts that reveal exactly how special UWaterloo is:

1. More than a third of all new UWaterloo students have a 95%+ entry average.

This interactive table from UWaterloo's Performance Indicators page demonstrates entry averages in each Faculty/Program since 2014.

That wasn’t a typo – in 2020, 37% of all new students at the University of Waterloo achieved an average equal to or greater than 95% in secondary school. Another

32% had an entry average in the 90-94% range, which means that well over two-thirds of all new students are A+ performers. 

Impressive, but it gets even better. If you look at engineering students, the number increases to 52% of all students with a 95%+ entry average and 88% of all new students entering UWaterloo with a 90%+ average. In mathematics, which includes computer science, those numbers increase to 58% and 92%, respectively. Finally, for software engineering, 90.6% of new students held a 95%+ entry average and almost all of them came to the university with a 90%+ average.

These entry averages are very notable in a vacuum, but become remarkable in comparison with other post-secondary institutions in Ontario – in 2018, the University of Waterloo has the highest proportion of students entering with a 95%+ average (26.8%) and the second highest percentage of students entering with a 90%+ average (59.6%). The next closest is the University of Western Ontario with 17.8% and 59.8%, respectively.

In sum, if your business is looking to establish a talent pipeline of brilliant new graduates, UWaterloo is a great place to start.

2. UWaterloo is home to the largest concentration of math and computer science talent in the world

The Quantum-Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo
The Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo.

Yes, the world.

UWaterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics has 250 lecturers and professors and 8,000 students studying everything from computer science, data science and artificial intelligence to pure and applied mathematics. The sheer size of the faculty allows UWaterloo to cover a breadth and depth of study that you just won’t find anywhere else.

While mathematics has a reputation for being esoteric, advances in computer science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and security are revolutionizing the tech industry and the world today. The Waterloo tech ecosystem itself was built on the back of math graduates, including Mike Lazaridis, who studied computer science (along with electrical engineering) before founding BlackBerry.

The ecosystem’s strengths in security and artificial intelligence are derived directly from the relative strengths of UWaterloo, which has led to the formation of the Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute and Waterloo Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute. Mathematics is also driving the next generation of technology – quantum technologies – through the Institute for Quantum Computing, which is one of the world’s leading quantum experimentation centres and a key part of the Waterloo quantum ecosystem.

If your business is looking to innovate, tapping into the world’s deepest pool of mathematics talent is where you should start.

3. More than 31% of Canada’s university co-operative education work terms are completed by students from UWaterloo

This statistic isn’t just astounding – it’s ridiculous. In a country with 96 universities, just one school accounts for 31% of all co-operative education (or co-op, for short) participants. In 2017, UWaterloo students completed 21,486 work terms. The next closest school was the University of British Columbia with 5,731.

With this in mind, it’s not so surprising to learn that UWaterloo is home to the world’s largest co-op program. In total, 7,000+ employers from around the world actively recruit UWaterloo co-op students.

What’s co-op? Co-op students alternate study terms with paid work terms and graduate with up to two years of relevant experience. For students, this means two years of on-the-job experience. For employers, this means highly trained, lower-cost workers with the most up-to-date education imaginable. We wrote a whole blog post about it the reasons co-op is useful to companies looking to grow and innovate.

If you’re looking for new talent with excellent experience, you want a UWaterloo co-op graduate.

4. The UWaterloo Engineering school is Canada’s largest and is ranked in the world’s top-40

With just under 8,000 students enrolled in 15 undergraduate and 37 graduate degree programs, UWaterloo is Canada’s largest engineering school. Each year, they graduate the largest number of engineers at both the undergraduate and graduate level in Canada.

It is the breadth and depth of the engineering school that puts it on the global radar. As you might expect from such a large program, the university offers programs across the engineering spectrum, including traditional fields like civil, computer and chemical engineering, and new, emerging or future-focused programs like mechatronics, nanotechnology, software and systems design.

UWaterloo’s engineering faculty includes 42 Research Chairs working on everything from wireless systems and future internet to additive manufacturing and clean energy. Together, they work in more than a dozen research centres and institutes, including Canada’s largest university-based automotive research centre, and institutes studying new polymers, nanotechnology and sustainable energy.

The high global ranking also reflects the quality of students in engineering at UWaterloo – as noted in the previous section, 87% of all new engineering students have an entry average above 90% - and their work-readiness – all engineering students graduate with 2+ years of on-the-job experience through co-operative education.Download the Waterloo AI Cluster Map Now!

“There is an undeniable reputation throughout tech of the kind of engineering talent that comes out of the University of Waterloo. The students here are probably going to be the business leaders of this century.” – Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder, Reddit

5. UWaterloo held the title “Canada’s Most Innovative University” for 28 consecutive years

You read that correctly – in its yearly rankings Maclean’s Magazine (Canada’s top business and politics publication) has named the University of Waterloo “Canada’s Most Innovative University” for 28 years straight.

This ranking has a lot to do with all the information you just read – UWaterloo attracts the best students in Canada, has world-renowned strengths in innovation-centric fields like engineering, mathematics and computer science, and the overwhelming majority of its students graduate with substantial hands-on, on-the-job experience.

The university also puts a premium on entrepreneurship. Its unique inventor-owned IP policy attracts the most entrepreneurial researchers and students – those interested in developing applied technologies that can become businesses. In fact, a number of Waterloo-based startups and scale-ups are built on technologies or ideas developed at UWaterloo, including North, Nicoya Lifesciences, Intellijoint and Clearpath Robotics.

UWaterloo has also helped support innovation-minded students with a suite of entrepreneurship programs under the “Velocity” brand, including a unique residence, an education and collaboration centre, an incubator and a funding program. The 300+ startups that Velocity has worked with since 2008 have raised over $815 million in funding.


Do you want to learn more about locating in Waterloo to take full advantage of UWaterloo’s incredible talent pipeline and research capacity? Contact us today!


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Topics: quantum, technology, talent, business, artificial intelligence