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January 22, 2004
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Big benefits to a university education, say Canadians


A large majority of Canadians see the benefits of a university education and believe government should do more to ensure there’s a spot for every qualified student, according to a recent poll by Ekos Research Associates.

At least three-quarters of Canadians say a university degree greatly improves one’s chances of getting a job and has a big impact on a person’s quality of life and personal growth. An even larger number, 82 per cent, believe a degree positively affects lifetime earnings and career advancement opportunities.

However, when asked if they thought universities have enough room for all qualified students who want to go, two-thirds of Canadians said no.

This is not an idle concern. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada estimates that rising demand will push enrolment up at Canadian universities by at least 30 per cent, or 200,000 additional full-time students, in the decade ending in 2011. And this estimate may actually be too conservative. As of fall 2003, following the two largest year-over-year enrolment increases ever seen in Canada, full-time enrolment has already risen by nearly 100,000 students – half way to the total enrolment growth predicted in the 30-per cent growth scenario.

This sort of enrolment growth is not sustainable if universities don’t receive additional funding to hire more staff and expand their physical and technological infrastructure to meet student demand, says Robert J. Giroux, president of the AUCC. “Without adequate government investment in universities’ institutional capacity, either access or educational quality – or both – will suffer,” says Mr. Giroux.

The public is firmly behind increased funding, with nearly four-fifths of Canadians supporting additional government grants to universities to expand their capacity. As well, 85 per cent say it’s time for the federal government to invest more in support of university education. An overwhelming 89 per cent – nearly nine out of 10 Canadians – see this spending as a good long-term investment for the country.

An equal number (89 per cent) also support university research and its benefits to Canadians and Canadian society. In addition, there is strong support for preparing students for a global future, with 85 per cent of Canadians agreeing that knowledge of other cultures and an understanding of the world are increasingly important qualities for employees to have in today’s labour market.

The poll results, part of the Rethinking Government Study by Ekos, are based on 1,550 telephone interviews with a random sampling of Canadians aged 16 and over between Dec. 3-16. The results are considered accurate plus or minus 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

AUCC is the national organization representing Canada’s 93 public and private not-for-profit university and university-degree level colleges.

The full poll results are available at


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Next issue: February 5, 2003

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