Taking Notes: Eye on Education – How Do You Define University

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org

How Do You Define University

A recently released StatsCan discussion paper is proposing a new way to define and classify postsecondary institutions. The intent is to find more inclusive definitions that make a clearer distinction between colleges and universities and private and public institutions.

The reliability of statistics is dependant on being grounded in credible definitions, and as the postsecondary environment evolves and becomes more complex, it is important to find a sharper way to count things.

The discussion paper suggests that postsecondary institutions be divided into three main types: university and degree-granting; college and institute; and career college. Each category would be further subdivided. For example, the university and degree-granting category is divided into the divisions used in the MacLean’s rankings: undergraduate, comprehensive, medical-doctoral; along with two other divisions: First Nations and Metis; and special purpose.

This definition would allow inclusion of many private (predominantly religious) institutions that were not previously included in StatsCan surveys.

A further definition category uses the criteria of public, for-profit or non-profit, and the paper proposes the addition of a new category that would be called ‘school board or adult education.’ This is important since previous StatsCan surveys included any kind of schooling pursued after high school as postsecondary. The change would allow inclusion of any formal adult educational activities, regardless of whether high school was completed.

As students, we are interested in educational statistics that are relevant to us, such as ratio of earnings to degree earned. Any attempts to improve how these statistics are reported is a welcome move.

StatsCan is inviting feedback on the proposals, with a final document to be prepared this summer.

References:

What’s a university? StatsCan proposes rethink of PSE definitions:
http://www.universityaffairs.ca/pdf/past_articles/2004/february/english/statscanpropose_e.html

Stats Canada on education:
http://www.statcan.ca/english/Pgdb/educat.htm#gra

Download a copy of the Stats Can discussion paper:
http://www.statcan.ca/english/IPS/Data/81-595-MIE2003011.htm

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