The Hidden Crisis in the Canadian University System

James Côté


Criticizing the university system is not a popular thing to do, because most people have heard only good-news stories about Canada being a world leader in producing higher educational graduates, and how well these graduates are doing. There is no question in my mind that having many university graduates in Canadian society is a good thing. My concern is that much of this in jeopardy. There are strong signs that fewer people are benefiting from their undergraduate education, especially the liberal arts degree. Personal benefits are threatened as fewer students put an honest and sustained effort into their studies, and financial benefits are in jeopardy because of the glut of undergraduate credentials we are producing, especially those earned by unmotivated students. This glut has increased competition among degree holders for entry-level jobs and placement in post-graduate programmes. Consequently, more and more graduates are seeking multiple degrees and diplomas to get even a foothold in the labour force or on the short-list of advanced programmes. These problems are traceable to two “dirty little secrets” of the university system: widespread disengagement among students and rampant underemployment of graduates.


higher education; university; student engagement; human capital

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Higher Education Perspectives. ISSN: 1710-1530