Canada’s universities share a key strength: their high quality. Canadian universities have a long record of providing an accessible university education to students from across Canada and around the world. Reflecting the rich history many cultures and traditions, Canadian universities offer a mix of opportunities in a variety of educational settings.
The 89 Universities that are members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada are located across the country, with institutions in every Canadian province. Taken together, they offer a wide range of courses.
In addition to universities, Canada’s postsecondary system includes 175 community colleges, which respond to the training needs of business, industry and the public service, as well as the educational needs of vocationally oriented secondary school graduates. These colleges, also known as institutes of technology, university colleges or CEGEPS, historically offered diplomas and certificates rather than degrees. Today, some offer degrees themselves, and a number offer university transfer programs or provide programs jointly with neighbouring universities.
A Range of Choices
Canadian universities provide a full spectrum of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with faculty undertaking research of national and international importance.
Universities in Canada range from large urban, multi-campus and research-intensive universities, offering a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, to small liberal arts colleges with a focus on undergraduate education. Others provide specialized professional programs in fields such as business, engineering, art and design or agriculture.
You will find that Canadais nothing if not diverse! University colleges represent a new model for postsecondary education, combining practical vocational programs with more theoretical offerings. Since Canada is a bilingual country, our universities demonstrate this by offering instruction in English, French, or even both!
Three universities are devoted entirely to distance education – a field in which Canada, a country of vast spaces and outstanding achievements in telecommunications, is a world leader. In fact, most universities in Canada offer a wide selection of courses through distance education, with formats ranging from traditional print or audiotape correspondence courses, to teleconference or computer conferences. Support systems for students who study at a distance are common, including counseling and study skills seminars, tutorial assistance by phone, fax or computer, and direct online links to campus libraries.
A Reputation for Excellence
Canadian universities have earned an international reputation for excellence. Their faculty has recognized research and teaching strengths in areas such as computer sciences, business (including MBA programs), health sciences, law, ocean studies, natural resources and agriculture.
In addition to their teaching, universities play a vital role in their local communities, offering concerts and plays, day care centers, sports and fitness facilities, lectures, museums, on-campus radio stations and art galleries open to all. Research is central to the mission of Canadian universities. In fact, 25% of Canada’s research capacity is found in our universities – a far higher proportion than most others countries. Universities in Canada employ about one-third of the country’s PhDs, who spearhead the national research effort. Students at Canadian universities are frequently involved in research projects, often during their early undergraduate years. Professors see research as an integral component to their classroom teaching. Canadian university research has yielded a wealth of innovations as important as insulin, Pablum, the artificial pacemaker, improved strains of wheat, and the identification of the genetic causes of diseases such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Today, Canadian researchers are world leaders in areas such as helping people cope with pain and stress, improving human memory, pulp and paper chemistry, dealing with the impact of technology in the workplace, and finding new treatments for cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis.
The System in Profile
Universities in Canada operate under provincial government charters. There is no formal system of university-wide institutional accreditation. Instead, membership of AUCC, in conjunction with the university’s provincial government charter, is seen as serving in lieu of institutional accreditation, both in Canadaand abroad. In addition, graduate programs and professional schools such as law, nursing, medicine and engineering have rigorous discipline-specific accreditation procedures. Computer science is also developing its own accreditation system.
There are currently 500,000 full-time undergraduates at Canadian universities, 200,000 part-time undergraduates, 75,000 full-time and 40,000 part-time graduate students. Student profiles have changed dramatically over the past decade, with more older students, more women and a greater multicultural mix. The social sciences remain by far the largest field of study in Canada, followed by education and the humanities. Biochemistry and computer science have been among the fastest growing disciplines at the bachelor’s level in the last five years, closely followed by nursing, sociology and psychology. A wide range of student services is offered by most universities, including special tutoring in writing and math skills, help in finding off-campus housing, academic, career or personal counseling, and health services.
Many universities provide support to students with special needs, including single parents, women, those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, aboriginal students, part-time students, gays and lesbians, mature students, and students of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Special programs are also often available to help first-year students improve their chances for success at university. Some offer for-credit courses aimed at integrating students to university life and studies. Many universities provide such assistance on an on-going basis throughout the academic year, with workshops in areas such as essay and exam writing, study and research skills.
A Lasting Reward
A university education translates into new skills, better job prospects and higher salaries. University graduates also have a better chance at promotion throughout their career, better health and benefit packages, as well as better pension plans. Clearly, the rewards of a university education last a lifetime.
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