Graduate Student Market in Canada

A Hot Tip about Education in Canada

Last updated: 23 Feb 2011


Canadian students in increasing numbers are looking at the possibilities of a U.S. education. In fact, approximately 28,000 Canadian students enrolled in postsecondary institutions in the United States during 2006-2007. This was a 23% increase over the previous decade. Canada's proximity to the United States, common language and the high regard for U.S. educational institutions, are all important factors behind this trend.


In 2007 the Government of Canada’s investment in education reached $90 billion, representing a 10.2 percent increase over 2006. During the past five years, Canada’s spending on education has increased 35 percent. Universities are a $26 billion enterprise in Canada serving more than 1.5 million full, part-time and continuing education students and employing more than 150,000 faculty and staff. These numbers are up significantly from 2001 when universities were a $16 billion economic enterprise with 1.3 million students.


While education in Canada is a provincial mandate, the Federal Government allocates significant funds, creates fee structures and new programs. At the same time, most universities operate independently in terms of admission standards, degree requirements, and administration of their own finances and programs. Canada has 163 recognized public and private universities (including theological schools) and 183 recognized public colleges and institutes. In addition, there are 68 university-level institutions and 51 college-level institutions under selected programs and approved under provincially established quality assurance programs. Canada is a bilingual country and education, at all levels, is widely available in English and French. U.S. schools should note that the Province of Quebec's official language is French.


U.S. postsecondary institutions that are interested in recruiting Canadian graduate students are encouraged to increase their brand visibility in Canada by exhibiting in national and regional educational and career fairs, participating in single school promotions, and exploring partnerships with local universities. This will allow U.S. schools to target graduate students much more effectively.


Market Demand

According to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the university sector is larger than the pulp and paper industry, the oil and gas extraction industry, the utilities sector, the combined arts, entertainment and recreation industries and such prominent manufacturing industries as aerospace, motor vehicle, and plastic products. More than one third of research conducted in Canada is carried out at Canadian universities.


Between 2000 and 2006, full-time university enrolment increased by more than 190,000 students or 31 percent in Canada. From 2006 to 2016, national full-time enrollment is expected to grow approximately 20 percent despite demographic trends that show a decline of Canada's population aged 18 to 21 starting in 2012.


These numbers are the reflection of a trend during the last several years of record enrolment in some parts of the country, with special emphasis in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, as echo baby boomers (children of baby boomers) reach university age. As Canadian institutions reach full capacity, there is an opportunity for U.S. educational institutions to promote their programs by either promoting enrollment in their campuses, establishing a physical presence in Canada, or delivering graduate programs through e-Learning or distance education methods. Rising enrollment rates are the result of several factors such as labor market demand, parental influence, urbanization, and immigration and socio-economic status, which are increasingly influencing Canadian demand for highquality university education.


In 2006, approximately 815,000 fulltime students attended Canadian universities and colleges of which approximately 700,000 were undergraduates and 115,000 graduate students. An additional 265,000 students were enrolled part-time programs; 220,000 in undergraduate programs and 45,000 in graduate programs. Total full-time postsecondary enrolment is projected to grow steadily until 2012/2013 to nearly 1.3 million students, approximately 50,000 more than between 2003/2004 and 2005/2006.


Over the last 16 years, the number of Canadian fulltime jobs occupied by graduate degree holders has grown from 550,000 in 1990 to more than one million in 2006, whereas the jobs for those who have not completed postsecondary education has declined. As Canada struggles to meet the market challenges imposed by the new emerging economies such as China, India, Pakistan and much of Southeast Asia, companies are searching aggressively for graduate professionals who have upgraded or want to upgrade their skills, in order to help organizations remain competitive and productive in today’s economy.


Women’s Participation Rate in the Graduate Student Market

According to Statistics Canada, in the 2004/2005 academic year almost 46 percent of graduates between the ages of 25 and 29 were women compared to almost 43 percent the year before. While gender differences were less pronounced overall, there remained large differences across fields of study. Engineering remained the most male-dominated field, while psychology had become the most female dominated field of study. Some of the increase in the proportion of women came from substantial gains in fields that have traditionally been male dominated. In computer and information sciences and mathematics, as well as in physical sciences, the numbers of female graduates grew much faster than the number of male graduates. Between the 2003/2004 and the 2004/2005 academic years, the proportion of women graduating from computer and information sciences and mathematics grew by almost 49 percent. Likewise, the proportion of women graduating from physical sciences grew by over 23 percent. Women continue to be the majority on both university and college campuses. They account for 51 percent of students in master's programs and about 46 percent of those at the doctoral level. While women continue to make up the majority of students on both university and college campuses, they are still in the minority in the skilled trades.


Foreign Student’s Proportion Amongst Canadian Graduate Students

In the 2004/2005 academic year, approximately 23 percent of all graduates in Canada were foreign or visa students. Foreign graduates were disproportionately represented in engineering and the physical sciences. Over 42 percent of engineering graduates and more than 32 percent of physical science graduates were foreign or visa students. Conversely, less than 12 percent of social science graduates and less than 17 percent of humanities graduates were foreign or visa students.


Read the full market research report


Posted: 21 December 2009, last updated 23 February 2011

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