In an effort to respond to private companies in need of more talent and anxious families concerned that college graduates may not find fulfilling work, Canadian universities have pledged to increase collaboration with the private sector and give students closer links to industry.
“We don’t exist alone in the ecosystem and we want to build bridges to the private sector, to government, and non-profits.… we feel those partnerships need to be celebrated and even expanded,” said Elizabeth Cannon, president of the University of Calgary and the new chair of Universities Canada, the group that represents all Canadian universities.
To help with this, Canadian universities have announced the following five commitments, which we’ve seen versions of at institutions in the US as well (summarized here by The Globe and Mail):
- Prepare students for work and life
- Pursue excellence
- Deliver enriched learning experiences
- Support research that aims to solve societal problems
- Build Canada through collaboration with other sectors
But what do these commitments look like in practice?
At some institutions—such as University of New Brunswick and Brock University, both of which are EMSI clients—it may mean a greater push to understand labour market outcomes as it relates to their graduates, employ data into institutional planning, and increase human capital in the region. And there may be more emphasis on relaying that information to students, helping them identify and understand outcomes before they choose a major.
These changes would certainly help with the first commitment—to prepare students for work and life—because it’s very difficult to be prepared if you don’t know what your goals are, or if there aren’t opportunities in your region. However, these changes would make a significant impact on all five commitments because students’ goals would align with real-world opportunities, which would open doors to more enriched learning experiences, make for more competitive program planning, and ultimately help Canada succeed.
By making informed decisions based on data and keeping an end goal in mind, students are also less likely to switch their majors—a huge deterrent to student success in both Canada and elsewhere.
“The reality is that at least half of students change majors between year one and year five, and we need to be responsive to that and avoid undue silos,” said Dominic Giroux, president of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.
Canadian universities may also increase hands-on learning, giving students an edge when they enter the workforce because they’ve had practice completing real, valuable tasks. “There is a shift underway in university culture, towards hands-on learning, where students want more of that, particularly in areas where it has not been there before,” said Alan Shepard, president of Concordia University, who was also part of the working group.
With these five commitments, Canadian universities are taking a big step in identifying what they’d like the future of Canadian higher education to be. We’re looking forward to seeing how these commitments impact students, universities, and the Canadian economy.