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The Globe and Mail

Transforming the ivory tower: The case for a new postsecondary education system

The voices of education

The Globe and Mail asked a cross-section of Canadians to trace our undergraduates’ greatest challenges, to offer possible solutions and to highlight the forces that will most reshape higher education in the next decade. This interactive gallery presents a dozen voices – from prominent public figures to everyday students – with an array of ideas to refashion our academic institutions.

Education in 2012

Canada has thrown open the doors to its postsecondary schools, achieving accessibility that is the envy of the world. But mass higher education has brought with it fears of diminishing returns from a system built for a bygone era. Multiple credentials and mounting debt have not always meant stronger employment – or better learning. For all their strengths, Canada’s universities are struggling to give students and governments their money’s worth.

Are Canadians getting the best education they can?


From lecture halls with too little real learning to consumer-minded students all too quick to drop out, The Globe’s James Bradshaw outlines an education system ready for reform.

Where do you stand?

Canada is a world leader at producing university and college graduates. On average, graduates enjoy better pay and steadier work than their less-educated peers. But as enrolment has exploded, the focus is now on how well postsecondary study prepares students to launch into life after school. Is higher education delivering what's needed to succeed, or is it time for change? Click on The Globe’s interactive chart to plot your position.

Vote: How Relevant is Canadian higher education?


Just how relevant is higher education in Canada? Chart your perspective, and compare your opinion to others'.

Join the conversation

More students, more years, more debt

Pursuing postsecondary education is stretching students’ means like never before. Even with improved financial aid, students are forking over more tuition fees and shouldering more of the cost of their education, boomeranging to pursue higher credentials, and accumulating more debt. And at the end of that road, their employment prospects are less clear than in the past. Click through the graphics below to see the financial factors squeezing students.

Tuition section goes here


    Meet the innovators

    There is much debate about how to change Canada’s postsecondary education system so that today’s graduating class is better equipped for a dramatically changing economy. While the debate is ongoing, individual innovators are making the changes they say are much needed. From making a degree relevant, to changing the way students are taught, to making the best a university has to offer free to anyone, anywhere: These are the people making a difference.



    The university payoff

    Evidence of the returns on university education has been piling up, with an average bachelor-degree holder earning 40 per cent more than the typical high-school graduate. But what you choose to study matters. More students and parents are gravitating to subjects they believe lead to better jobs, but are they making informed choices? Use this interactive tool to compare hard numbers between undergraduate fields, and match your major against a high-school diploma.

    Median income, age 26 to 35


    Lowest income2


    Highest income3






    Not in labour force


    Avg. work hours/week


    Median income, age 26 to 35

    Lowest income2

    Highest income3



    Not in labour force

    Avg. work hours/week

    Sources: Arthur Sweetman, Sarah Wang, StatsCan Research Data Centre at McMaster University and the 2006 Census

    Notes: 1The combined average income of all listed fields (male and female) is 2Calculated based on the bottom 20th percentile of earnings 3Calculated based on the top 80th percentile of earnings

    The advisory panel

    Reimagining a higher-education system as large and varied as Canada’s is no small task. Twenty-five of Canada’s leading thinkers on postsecondary learning – from presidents to professors and the people shaping policy – shared their ideas, innovations and concerns as Canadian education strives to stay competitive at a moment of massive global change. We asked the minds who helped shape The Globe and Mail’s coverage one question: What's the one thing you would change about higher education?

    The Advisors

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    Share your opinion

    The strength of Canada’s universities and colleges is not only vital to the students, parents and professors with direct connections to the halls of academia, but to all Canadians: These schools feed our economy, our culture, our capacity to innovate and our quality of life. Tell us your ideas for improving postsecondary education in Canada, and share your experience with other Globe and Mail readers to imagine a revitalized model for higher learning.

    Share your opinion on post-secondary education

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