Postsecondary education in Canada exists in a constantly changing environment, which encompasses globalization, increased population mobility, technology advancements, changing demographics, and the steadily evolving labour market. Three interconnected issues arise from these trends — postsecondary capacity, quality assurance, and internationalization and mobility.
The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, has characterized postsecondary capacity as the enhancement and stabilization of the long-term capacity of postsecondary systems to meet the training and learning needs of all Canadians seeking higher-education learning opportunities. The primary need is for stable and long-term government funding. Population shifts mean that the traditional age cohort for university entrance is shrinking, while the demand for a highly skilled workforce grows. Consequently, postsecondary institutions need to attract and train more people, including older adults and members of groups who have not traditionally participated in university and college education. Other aspects of postsecondary capacity that are of particular concern include the replacement of large numbers of faculty who will be retiring in the next decade; infrastructure costs in aging institutions; absorbing the indirect costs of research; and the affordability of postsecondary education, especially with regard to student-debt loads.
Maintaining the quality of postsecondary programs in Canada is primarily the responsibility of individual institutions, which must operate within legislative and policy frameworks established by their respective provincial or territorial governments. Given the greater mobility of people and programs, the increasing number of institutions being given degree-granting status, and the expanding use of information technology, mechanisms for maintaining quality are increasingly important.
Although there is no national accreditation body in Canada that evaluates the quality of degree programs, a number of agencies and professional bodies perform this function for professional programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In the absence of a national accreditation body, universities' membership in Universities Canada, together with the universities' provincial-government charter, is generally taken as evidence that an institution is providing university-level programs of acceptable standards. Degree programs at university colleges, colleges, and institutes are subject to internal quality-assurance processes similar to those used for university programs. More information on quality-assurance mechanisms for postsecondary institutions in Canada's provinces and territories is provided in the CICIC document Quality Assurance Practices for Postsecondary Institutions in Canada.
Internationalization and Mobility
The internationalization of education reflects the need for knowledge and skills for a global economy. This trend has major implications for international-student recruitment, policies and procedures for recognizing and evaluating credentials, curriculum, and student mobility.
To increase international-student recruitment, educational authorities in Canada are working with the federal government and key agencies to develop a positioning and brand for education. Colleges and universities have the right to decide on recognition of foreign programs and degrees. Credential evaluation services have been established by many provincial governments to provide expert opinions. Although these evaluations are not binding on the institutions, they provide a useful comparison of foreign and Canadian credentials. The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) advises individuals on what they need to do to have their credentials assessed and recognized in Canada.
Institutions are working to bring more international dimensions to the curriculum, through content expansion and international joint courses and programs. To facilitate mobility and transferability domestically and to increase understanding of Canada's postsecondary institutions internationally, the ministers responsible for postsecondary education issued the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework, which outlines a set of consistent and coherent standards at a pan-Canadian level.
Comprehensive review of this information: February 2009