Exploring the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS): Results from 2007 and 2010 for Ontario Universities

Research Summary:

Graduate students slightly less satisfied with quality of academic experience and student life

While graduate student enrolments have increased dramatically in recent years, a new report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) shows that graduates remain satisfied with their education, although satisfaction has dropped slightly since 2007.

Project description

Using the data from the 2007 and 2010 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS),  Exploring the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS): Results from 2007 and 2010 for Ontario Universities explores what influences graduate students’ satisfaction with their universities, programs of study, academic experiences and faculty supervisors; what influences students’ perceptions of the quality of teaching and learning; and how graduate student satisfaction levels differed between 2007 and 2010. The report uses data from 15 Ontario universities in 2007 and 17 in 2010. Both years’ data were analyzed separately as the survey is not longitudinal – and changes in individuals’ satisfaction levels cannot be assessed over time. The survey was administered across Canada in 2007 and 2010, and will be administered again in 2013. 


Graduate students who were male; lived on-campus, especially with resident assistant or dorm responsibilities; married, with children; of Black or Latin American visible minority status; received financial support in the form of scholarship, fellowship and/or bursary; or enrolled in Health Science, Business/Management were, in general, the most satisfied with their academic experience, student life, program and overall experience at their universities.

Asian and mixed origin students, those with more than $10,000 educational debt; had an employment income; received financial support in the form of loans, savings and/or family assistance; or stayed longer in their programs were the least satisfied.

Surprisingly, international students were, in general, more satisfied than domestic students with their student life and faculty supervisors, yet were less likely to choose the same university if they were to start their graduate or professional career again. 
Graduate students attending larger universities were more satisfied with their institutions although students from smaller universities were happier with their faculty supervisors.

And while the satisfaction levels of doctoral students have decreased slightly, the study showed greater satisfaction with the quality of professional skills development they received in 2010 compared to 2007. This may suggest the success of some institutions’ initiatives – such as the  Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program  launched by University of Toronto in 2009 and  MITACS initiatives  introduced in various universities.

Policy recommendations

The author offers a number of recommendations to improve the quality of the graduate student experience. Among them, continuing support and administration of the survey; supporting and implementing policies to lessen the educational debt levels of graduate students; developing and evaluating targeted initiatives aimed at specific graduate student populations; and, improving doctoral students’ professional skills development. The government should continue to work with universities and their graduate deans to promote and support initiatives and best practices that improve graduate student preparation for the labour market.

About the author

Exploring the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS): Results from 2007 and 2010 for Ontario Universities was written by Huizi Zhao, former senior research analyst at HEQCO and currently institutional research manager in the Corporate Planning & Institutional Research Office at Centennial College.