April, 2000

Upward Trend for Undergrad Enrolment
Not Matched in Postgraduate Engineering

A national survey by the Canadian Engineering Resources Board (CERB) points to a continuing rise in the number of students enrolled full-time in undergraduate engineering programs in Canada. Based on data collected in the spring of 1999, the results show that close to one in five undergraduate engineering students is female.

The CERB report, Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow, provides statistics on engineering enrolment and degrees awarded from 1994 through 1998 (the latest degree figures relate to 1998 and enrolment is based on the 1998-99 academic year).

In 1998-99, Canada-wide there were 44,824 full-time undergraduate students (4,588 of them in Alberta), of whom 8,737 or 19.5 per cent were female. Nationally, the total undergraduate enrolment rose by 4.5 per cent between 1996-97 and 1997-98. In 1994, when enrolment reached 41,837, female students accounted for 18.3 per cent of that total.

Reporting on enrolment trends, the report says: " Most disciplines of engineering have experienced growth except civil engineering, which experienced a 30-per-cent decrease since 1994."

Fewer undergraduate degrees (7,826) were awarded in 1998 than in each of the preceding three years (7,917 in 1995; 8,139 in 1996 and 7,873 in 1997). In Alberta, the 722 degrees awarded represented an increase from the 694 granted in 1997 and a marginal decline from the 1996 figure of 725.

The 132 women who received undergraduate engineering degrees in Alberta in 1998 amounted to 18 per cent of the graduating total. British Columbia had fewer graduates (543) but of those (168) 31 per cent were women.

By discipline nationally, electrical (1,820), mechanical (1,720 ) and civil (1,334) had the highest numbers of degrees awarded in 1998 but, except for electrical, the figures represent a decrease in absolute terms.

The CERB, which operates under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, also notes in its report: "The number of undergraduate degrees awarded has increased in the majority of disciplines since 1994, except for civil, mechanical and to a lesser extent materials and metallurgical engineering and engineering science. In every discipline, the number of degrees awarded to women has increased since 1994."

While, undergraduate enrolment has risen, the overall graduate enrolment, including both full-time and part-time students, declined over the five-year period under review. However, part-time master's enrolment showed a 24 per cent jump from 1997 to 1998. In the case of PhD candidates, there was decline in enrolments (down by seven per cent for full-time and 25 per cent for part-time).

Commenting on the graduate scene, the report states: "Full-time enrolment in master's programs generally decreased over the past five years with the exception of electrical, computer, geological and the newest field of software engineering. Electrical engineering was the most popular of all disciplines at the master's and doctoral level, with 27 per cent of total engineering postgraduate students in 1998."

The combined figures for doctoral and master's degrees have remained fairly steady at around 2,500 for each of the five years under review, with PhDs awarded amounting to about a quarter of that total over the 1994-98 period.

The report also offers information on international trends. For instance, it notes that while Canada continues to show an increase in engineering enrolment, the United States registered a 1.5-per-cent drop, although there was a slight increase of women studying engineering in the U.S.

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