Reshaping the student experience


The student-centric imperative

Meeting the needs of Canada’s higher education learners

Higher education in Canada is at a tipping point. Economic, societal, and technological changes that have been disrupting the industries for years are coming to head, along with the potential financial impacts of international student policy. Colleges and universities are thinking hard about how they can be successful in the future.

In the year since we published our last education survey results, the focus on the financial viability of post-secondary institutions has intensified. It’s making headlines, illustrating, once again, the need for renewed strategies to ensure the sustainability of higher education institutions across Canada. Other disruptions include demographic shifts, policy changes, and a student housing crisis squeezing student recruitment; an overabundance of choices for and pressures on prospective students; and students questioning the value of higher education, a trend we’ve noted over the past two years.

It’s time for Canada’s institutions to take a deep look at the value they offer to current and prospective students and strategize accordingly.

Access the insights

In the fall of 2023, we surveyed more than 1,500 post-secondary students enrolled in institutions across Canada, with around 1,000 from universities and 500 from colleges. The survey included about 1,000 undergraduate students and 500 graduate students, with 80% of the participants enrolled in full-time studies and 20% in part-time studies.

Overall, our findings about how student-centric respondents think their institutions are can be summarized in four broad themes:

  1. Students think their institutions are doing better. Year over year, the percentage of students who agree their institutions are focused on their needs is increasing.
  2. There’s a persistent trend of student satisfaction declining from the early stages of the student journey through to student life and student services. For the past three years, students told us that institutions are less focused on their needs during their time at school than they are during application and registration.
  3. Different student groups have significantly different experiences in higher education. Students with mental health issues or disabilities and students from lower socio-economic statuses, for example, consistently report that their institutions are less focused on their needs. 
  4. Students expect a seamless digital experience on campus. Survey comments make it clear that students are anchoring their expectations on their digital experiences with the platforms and products of Google and Apple: a high bar to meet.


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