• Côté, A., Dobbs, G. (2023) Canada's Black Box of Higher Education Outcomes. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

There are nearly two million students enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges at any given time. Higher education is a large sector, with public institutions’ revenues totalling $60 billion annually. The system of post-secondary education is recognized as essential to Canada’s prosperity and labour force development, creating economic opportunity, social mobility, newcomer integration, and civic engagement for learners. Yet, there is alarmingly little understanding or analysis of the outcomes Canada’s higher education system produces—whether to inform public policy, align skills development, or ensure learners (and funders) are getting good value.

This report investigates the topic of outcomes tracking in Canadian higher education and related notions of quality and value assessment, with the aim of informing better post-secondary policy, education and labour market planning, and learner career pathway navigation.

Why do higher education outcomes matter? In today’s rapidly changing and increasingly competitive Canadian post-secondary marketplace, there are three compelling reasons why tracking outcomes is an imperative:

  • Transparency: To provide learners with the information they need to make informed decisions about education and training options
  • Improvement: To equip higher education and training providers with the information they need to enhance program delivery, learner experience, and post-completion success
  • Accountability: To inform governments and oversight bodies that fund and set policies, standards for quality assurance, consumer protection, and performance