Four of BC’s major universities have been placed in the Top Two in their categories, according Maclean’s magazine 22nd annual university rankings released Thursday.

The schools are divided into three categories based on the amount of research they undertake and whether they offer graduate programs.

In the medical category, the University of B.C. is up one spot this year, to no. 2, just behind McGill University in Montreal, which placed No. 1 for the eighth year in a row.

Rounding out the Top 5 in that category are Toronto, Queen’s and Alberta.

Once again, Simon Fraser earned the title of top university in the comprehensive category, followed by the University of Victoria in second place.

Comprehensive universities are considered those that have a wide range of research programs, undergraduate and graduate programs, including professional degrees.

For universities in the primarily undergraduate category, the University of Northern British Columbia placed second.

This year UNBC, located in Prince George, has the highest total research dollars, and the second best student-faculty, according to Maclean’s study.

The rankings were first released in 1991, at a time when most students gleaned much of their information about universities from parents or high school guidance counsellors.

Over the years, the annual ranking has generated significant controversy, with some schools refusing to participate at times.

In 2006, for example, 26 of 47 universities — including the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Concordia, Dalhousie, Universite de Montreal, Queen’s and the University of Toronto — refused to complete a ranking questionnaire. A group of 11 schools said the rankings were “over-simplified and arbitrary” and, in such areas as reputation, the universities criticized low-response rates.

To conduct the ranking, MacLean’s considers 14 indicators of the quality of students, faculty, libraries and finances to assess 49 schools.