The field is being narrowed in the search for Ontario’s “academic idol” and the province’s universities and colleges aren’t wasting any time touting their best professors.


TVOntario’s Best Lecturer competition, which pits students’ favourite instructors against each other in a battle of charisma, clarity, passion and conviction, has narrowed its challengers down to 71 from 258 student nominations. That list will be cut to 30 late next month.


And early next year, a three-judge panel will select 10 finalists to square off over five weeks in February and March with one-hour videotaped lectures on TVO’s Big Ideas program.

The public will then decide who tops the list, phoning in votes in the week following the lecture of their professor of choice. The winning prof’s school will win a $10,000 scholarship.

Now in its second year, the battle for oratory supremacy created a buzz around campuses in its debut, with students rallying behind their favourites even as some complained that their school’s administrations weren’t as supportive as they should be.

At Ryerson University, home of eventual winner Arne Kislenko, students who decided the school wasn’t doing enough to promote their beloved history prof postered the hallways to drum up support. One of the campus newspapers booked the school’s pub and invited students to watch when Kislenko’s lecture aired.

Although nominations were fewer this year, Wodek Szemberg, producer of the Big Ideas show, says there is more interest in the competition.

He has taken calls from many more universities, particularly Ryerson, as the schools recognize the image boost the competition can give them.

Many school websites, including the University of Western Ontario in London, Trent University in Peterborough and the Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, are already declaring their nominees.

Szemberg says the competition is about more than which university has the best lecturer.

“The best lecturer really goes to the heart of the experience where someone who has gone to university leaves it with a memory of having been illuminated,” he said. “With a memory of having been truly engaged.”

A winner won’t be declared until next year but the competition is guaranteed to produce a new champion. Szemberg said Kislenko declined his nomination.