Is Co-operative Education the Future of University?



By Sarah Lachance

How Did We Get Here?

With the massification of post-secondary education (PSE) in Canada, more and more students every year are seeing university as the right path for them (Jones, 2007). This has put universities in the position of playing a key role in the state of our national economy (Stewart, 2010). In fact, provincial and federal governments have gone as far as to make increased access to PSE as a goal to support the assumed high need for more skilled employees in the workforce (Jones, 2007).

It is no surprise that this shift towards increased enrollment has decreased the employment value of a degree (Walters & Zarifa, 2008). David McKay reported in the Globe and Mail (2015) that cooperative education not only prepares students for this changing economy, but also allows them to bring those experiences to the classroom to expand their learning.

Who Benefits? What are the Opportunities?

In a National Graduate Survey by Statistics Canada it was found that students who completed a co-operative education program in university or college were more likely to have full time employment two years after graduation than their non-coop counterparts (Walters & Zarifa, 2008). They were also more likely to get positions in their desired professions, make more money, and be overall more confident and job ready (Milley & Kovinthan, 2014).

Employers are complaining that university graduates are lacking the skills that they are looking for in employees (Miller, 2014). The purpose of cooperative education is to increase the employability of students; it also allows employers to give feedback to the schools about student performance and curriculum development (Milley & Kovinthan, 2014)

In 2005, there were 152,762 full-time international students enrolled in university (Stewart, 2010). Cooperative education allows foreign students to “get their foot in the door” of the Canadian workforce, make connections, and increase their likelihood of gaining employment after graduation (Tal & Enenajor, 2013).

Who Loses? What are the Challenges?

Turner (2014) believes that the current university education system trains graduates to develop knowledge, skill, and self-efficacy already, all of which are transferrable to the job market. The argument has been raised that prioritizing increased employability in university education undermines the core purpose of the institution and takes away from the development of this knowledge and skills set (Milley & Kovinthan, 2014).

For example, the University of Waterloo has one of the world’s largest cooperative education programs with approximately 19,000 students enrolled and 5,200 employers who participate (McKay, 2015). David McKay, a UWO Coop Alumni, did his placements at RBC where he is now the President and CEO. He believes that government incentives for universities to improve how they facilitate these programs are the key to increasing their effectiveness and the employability of graduates (McKay, 2015). Future changes in funding from government agencies to PSE may or may not incorporate these types of incentives. It could be a challenge for universities without coop programs already in place to receive the money they need to create them.

What Direction Should We Go Next?

One option is the addition of more applied baccalaureate programs in university. The Canadian Counsel on Learning (2010) believes that these types of programs, that have more of a vocational focus while still incorporating the program goals of typical undergraduate program, will be a welcomed innovation to employers.

These programs need to be developed so that they satisfy the purpose of the university and create more employable graduates. This style of program would require students to be participants in the work force to extend learning rather than for economic goals (Milley & Kovinthan, 2014). This way a student can get on-the-job experience while still developing thinking skills. An example of this would be using reflective practice as a means of improving metacognition (Milley & Kovinthan, 2014).

Why Should We Care?

Although the unemployment rate for PSE graduate is only five percent (Dehaas, 2014), it is believed that graduates stuck in part-time, low-income jobs is more than double that rate (Miller, 2014). What this means is that, with more people attending PSE, there are more students graduating with debt and with less graduates being hired into full-time, positions PSE graduates are starting their lives at a financial disadvantage (Tal & Enenajor, 2013).

In a recent HEQCO report, they recommended employer satisfaction with PSE graduates as an indicator of quality in post secondary institutions (HEQCO, 2012a, 2012b). If this criterion were to be added, various universities in Canada would begin to prioritize the employment skills of their graduates. Therefore, this may be an important time for researchers to be looking at this issue to develop a comprehensive coop program that satisfies the needs of employers and the purpose of universities.


Canadian Council on Learning (2010). Navigating post-secondary education in Canada: The challenge of a changing landscape. Ottawa, ON: Author

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (2012a). Performance indicators for the public postsecondary system in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Author.

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (2012b). The productivity of the Ontario public postsecondary system preliminary report. Toronto, ON: Author.

Jones, G. (2007, April). The academy as a work in progress. Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education, 10-13.

McKay, D. (2015, May 8). For students and employers, co-op education is a bridge to a wider world. The Glove and Mail. Retrieved from

Millar, E. (2014, Oct 14). The expectation gap: Students’ and Universities’ roles in preparing for life after grad. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

Milley, P., & Kovinthan, T. (2014). Examining the research base on university co-operative education in light of the neoliberal challenge to liberal education. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 60(2), 377 – 402.

Stewart, P. (2010). Academic values v commercial values. CAUT Bulletin, 57(3). Retrieved from

Tal, B., & Enenajor, E. (2013). Degrees of success: The playoff to higher education in Canada. In Focus. Retrieved from

Turner, N. (2014). Development of self-belief for employability in higher education: Ability, efficacy and control in context. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(6), 592 – 602. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2014.901951

Walters, D., & Zarifa, D. (2008). Earnings and employment outcomes for male and female postsecondary graduates of coop and non-coop programs. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 60(4), 337 – 299. doi: 10.1080/13636820802591863.


A Culture Of Learning For All


By Genevieve Broadley

Setting the Scene

Where do I begin? It all happened so quickly, and I feel like I don’t know what to do. My boyfriend and I have been dating for some time now, in fact it will be two years later this month. We met during frosh week, and now we’re almost half way done our undergraduate. Crazy how time flies! But, I guess a lot of things can change over two years, and crazy doesn’t even begin to describe it. I found out that I was pregnant two weeks ago, so I guess that puts me close to two months… I live with a bunch of girlfriends in our student house, and they all told me they would support me in my decision. My boyfriend told me the same thing. I guess what has been bothering me the most, is that I don’t really feel like I have a decision to make in the first place. Decisions can only be made when choices are present, but right now, I feel trapped. How am I going to finish my program with a new baby? I would have to move. I would have to take time off (is that even allowed?). I don’t have the money. What about daycare? Would my student benefits cover my child? Will I have to finish my classes online? Is there a support group on my campus? In my two years here so far, I have never seen a pregnant woman on campus. Will I stand out? Be ridiculed or gossiped about? What do I do?

The Canadian Context

This is just one of the many stories of a pregnant student trying to survive in the postsecondary setting. As Canadians we take pride in our cultural mosaic, our inclusivity, and the availability of resources and care we provide to the members of our society. Nevertheless, we cannot take this for granted. If we stop and ask ourselves who isn’t included and which pieces don’t fit into our mosaic, I think we would realize that universities are often not an inclusive space for pregnant and parenting students (Bierling, Cassidy, & Carter, 1994). According to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, at the University of Saskatchewan, one of the major issues in lifelong learning is the question of how to create a culture of learning for all. Postsecondary institutions must strive to be a culture of learning for all by providing access to learning for the less advantaged (CHSS, 2007). A study conducted in 2010 by the deVeber Institute investigated resources for pregnant and parenting students on university campuses in Canada (Bonomi, 2010). They found that only one Canadian university (University of Toronto) offered a Family Care Office, or central location from which students and their families can find resources and support through their education (Frances, 2016).

One of the most common resources provided at Canadian universities is flexible class times such as evening and weekend classes and distance studies options, at 91% and 76% of Canadian universities respectively (Bonomi, 2010). These were considered to be some of the most helpful options for pregnant and parenting students. Another very important resource for families is childcare. Brock University is one of 51 of Canadian Universities, out of 86 total, to offer a daycare on campus (Bonomi, 2010). The Rosalind Blauer Centre for Childcare offers their services to students, faculty, and staff of Brock University as well as to the community at large, with a priority given to students (Rosalind, 2010). Currently the daycare here at Brock has a waitlist of 1 year to 18 months, and the cost to enroll an infant is $245.07 per week (Rosalind, 2010). The centre is open Monday to Friday, from 7:30 in the morning to 6 at night (Rosalind, 2010). Despite these very long hours, students may struggle to find babysitters or childcare providers for evening or weekend classes. Negotiating class schedules and securing childcare are tip of the iceberg. Becoming a new parent can be challenging enough to navigate, without trying to decipher your school’s administrative policies, and build your own network of support. A central family care office would be an excellent asset to any school wishing to create an inclusive culture of learning for all (Frances, 2016).


The rhetoric surrounding “choice” in North America emphasizes a woman’s right to choose, but choices have seldom been provided for those who want to pursue family life and their education (Bierling et al. 1994). The 21st century woman is more likely than ever before to attend postsecondary school, and often females are outnumbering males in the university setting (Frenette & Klarka, 2007). The need for family-friendly campuses will only become greater as Canada opens its doors to immigrant and refugee families who are required to upgrade licensing or re-certify themselves in order to become professionals in the Canadian context (Houle & Yssaad, 2010; CIC, 2015).

Without critically assessing why we do not already have a vested interest in pregnant and parenting students, and why we are not striving to make education more accessible to students with families, we cannot move forward. If resources cannot be provided to support families on campus, pregnant and parenting students will be left behind during a challenging time. So why should we care? Family life is important. Often family is even referred to as a microcosm of society (Ugal & Orim, 2009). If families are the foundation on which society is built, then our educational institutions must do everything in their power to buttress this foundation and reinforce it. Education can not be viewed as incompatible with family life, but rather a means of enriching it; ensuring that the society of our future is built on a strong foundation.


Bierling, G., Cassidy, E., & Carter, E. (1994). Agency and maternal perceptions on the         decision to parent. UFL Proceedings 1994. 290-308.

Bonomi, G. (2010). Resources for pregnant women, single mothers, and parenting    students on university campuses in Canada. The deVeber Institute of Bioethics and Social         Research.  mothers-and-parenting-students-university-campuses-c

CHSS – Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences (2007). Issues in lifelong learning.        University of Saskatchewan (May 26- June 2).

CIC: The refugee system in Canada. The Government of Canada. Nov.24 2015   

Francis, K. (n.d.). University of Toronto, Family Care Office. Retrieved March 9, 2016.

Frenette, M., & Klarka Z. (2007). Why are most university students women? Evidence based on      academic performance, study habits and parental influences. Analytical Studies Branch  Research Paper Series. Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 11F0019MIE – No. 303.

Houle, R., & Yssaad, L. (2010). Recognition of newcomer’s foreign credentials and work    experience. Perspectives – Statistics Canada, 75(01), 18-33.

Rosalind Blauer Center for Child Care (2010). Enrolment and costs/ waitlist. Retrieved March 10, 2016.

Ugal, D., & Orim, P. (2009). Family as a microcosm of the larger society: Implications for    societal development. Social Science Research Network, (6) 12, 1-11.



Creating a Culture of Care



By Courtney Webster

Close your eyes, clear your mind, and take a deep breath. You are going to need all of the inner strength that you can get for this one. Are you ready? Let’s begin.

Think of five people in your life. These people can be male, female, gender fluid, or gender unidentified or undisclosed. These people can be family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, or your favourite barista at your beloved coffee shop who always remembers your order. Just think of five people.

Do you have your five? Okay, now brace yourself for the next step, because it is not going to be pretty.

Open your eyes, take another deep breath, and read the following statement carefully.

  • One in five women experience sexual assault while attending a post-secondary institution (Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario [CFS-O], 2015).

One in five. Remember those five people you were just thinking about? One of those people could be living proof of that statistic.

Now tell me that this statement does not evoke some sort of visceral reaction from deep within your core. Tell me that those numbers do not matter. Tell me that those people do not matter. You can’t, can you? So then tell me this – what are post-secondary education (PSE) institutions doing to prevent these numbers from climbing? What are PSE institutions doing to support survivors of attempted or completed sexual assault? More importantly, perhaps, what are they not doing that they could be doing?

The Current Situation

While the sources conducted for the purpose of this blog do not all share the same statistics as the CFS-O (2015) regarding the number of individuals who have been or will be sexually assaulted while attending PSE institutions, the numbers are all similarly staggering. Here are a few other statistics gathered from various sources:

  • According to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s action plan, “It’s Never Okay”, developed to combat sexual assault on university and college campuses, one in three women will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime (Government of Ontario, 2015);
  • Studies over the past few years in the United States and Canada have estimated that 15 to 25 per cent of women had experienced some form of sexual assault during their time at school (Mathieu & Poisson, 2014)

While issues of sexual violence and harassment are not confined strictly to college and university campuses, it is a pervasive problem that must be addressed. There is a need for institutions to establish both prevention and intervention programs to reduce the incidence of sexual assault, while also providing effective support services for survivors (Cares et al., 2015). The objectives for PSE administrators and leaders should be to combat sexual violence on campus and foster a culture of respect, inclusion, and civility (Napolitano, 2015). The goal for all institutions and those working within them must be to be proactive, not merely reactive.

In a study conducted in 2014, researchers found that 16 PSE institutions in Canada of 87 surveyed have received zero reports of sexual assault for six consecutive years (Ward, 2015). While a low number of sexual assault reports might seem encouraging, researchers believe the numbers could unfortunately be indicative of an unsupportive campus climate in which students do not feel comfortable or safe reporting their assault (Ward, 2015). It is essential that administrators of PSE institutions understand and recognize that reporting a higher number of incidents could be suggestive of an institution in which survivors feel safe reporting, as well as one that is effectively tracking and monitoring data regarding sexual assault (Tamburri, 2015).

What is Being Done?

“It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment” is a 2015 document released by the Government of Ontario to address sexual violence across the province. One of the chapters within the action plan focuses on policies that are to be instated across Ontario PSE institutions. Many on-campus incidences of sexual assault occur within the first eight weeks of classes, thus as of September 2015, all PSE institutions were mandated to participate in a province-wide awareness campaign (Government of Ontario, 2015).

The goals of this action plan with regard to sexual assault on campuses are to:

  • introduce legislation that requires all post-secondary institutions to adopt a sexual assault policy to be renewed every four years;
  • ensure campuses have clearly stated complaint procedures and response protocols, effective training and prevention programs, and services and supports for survivors available 24/7;
  • require all PSE institutions to publicly report on incidence of sexual violence
  • support initiatives to reduce sexual violence and harassment;
  • ensure that all students have information about preventing sexual violence and harassment and are informed of resources and supports, starting during orientation week and continuing through the year (Government of Ontario, 2015).

This action plan and its implementation indicate significant progress being made on the issue of sexual assault and reporting on campuses. In a previous investigative study conducted by The Toronto Star (Mathieu & Poisson, 2014), the researchers found that only nine of more than 100 universities and colleges had adopted a special policy to address sexual assault. While the majority of institutions had a line or a brief statement included in one of their other policies, they did not have a specific one regarding sexual assault, reporting, or preventative strategies.

Moreover, while the majority of the PSE institutions reported that they had on-campus security cameras, patrol cars, and emergency phones, these safety measures did not take into account the violence that occurs in residences or between students who know one another. While these measures might increase the feeling of safety on campus, they might not actually increase the reality of that safety (Mathieu & Poisson, 2014).

What Needs to be Done?

Now, these sources have all focused on sexual assault on women, but I want to make it clear that sexual assault does not happen to solely to women and that is why I asked you to think of five people, without specifying whether they had to gender identify in one way. I am not proposing that universities and colleges create special support programs and policies specifically for women, but for any individual who has ever felt threatened, unsafe, or has been assaulted.

Future research must consider all individuals, regardless of gender identification, sexual orientation, race, religion, or ability, and how they are impacted by sexual assault, both as survivors and as perpetrators. Further research will also need to be conducted to address the effectiveness of the “It’s Never Okay” action plan, as well as to ensure that it is being implemented.

It is time to foster a culture of care and safety within all post-secondary education institutions. For some students, PSE is a dream come true and an exciting adventure. We cannot allow that dream, that adventure, to become a nightmare.

One in five. We have work to do.



Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. (2015). Turning the Page: A New Chapter for Ontario’s Post-Secondary Students (2015). Retrieved from LobbyWeek-Web.pdf

Cares, A. C., Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., Williams, L. M., Potter, S. J., & Stapleton, J. G. (2015). Changing attitudes about being a bystander to violence: Translating an in-person sexual violence prevention program to a new campus. Violence Against Women, 21(2), 165-187.

Government of Ontario (2015). “It’s Never Okay”: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment. Retrieved from

Mathieu, E., & Poisson, J. (2014, November 20). Canadian post-secondary schools failing sex assault victims. The Star.

Napolitano, J. (2015). “Only yes means yes”: An essay on university policies regarding sexual violence and sexual assault. Yale Law & Policy Review, 33, 387-402.

Tamburri, R. (2015, April 10). Ontario moves to combat sexual violence on campus. University Affairs.

Ward, L. (2015, November 23). Schools reporting zero sexual assaults on campus not reflecting reality, critics, students say. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.