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
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
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
The full poll results are available at www.aucc.ca/pdf/english/media/ekospoll_universities_04.pdf.