CCPE Releases Five-Year Study On University Enrolment

By Chris Lyon, P.Eng.

Mr. Lyon is Manager of the Canadian Engineering Human Resources Board.

The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE), through the Canadian Engineering Human Resources Board (CEHRB), has released a new publication "Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 1992 to 1996". This analysis of Canadian undergraduate and graduate programs in accredited engineering programs is designed to advise educators, policy makers and prospective engineers on trends and opportunities in engineering. The report tracks educational trends nationally and provincially as well as by gender and citizenship status. It is augmented by CEHRB findings on industry human resources needs, and a discussion of strengths and weaknesses within industrial sectors.

The report is the culmination of a year-long analysis by the CEHRB. The report, available in both official languages, was prepared from data collected from Canadian universities offering accredited engineering programs.

Mandated with the responsibility to undertake human resources strategic planning for engineers across Canada, the CEHRB annually surveys Canadian universities to determine the number of students enrolled in engineering programs as well as those graduating over the calendar year. By tracking student participation rates, the CEHRB can determine trends in the supply of potential engineers to a broad range of Canadian industries. The profession is interested in tracking the demographics of engineering students including the number of women, geographic distribution of entrants, and the number of students enrolled or graduating in engineering disciplines.

Significant Trends

The analysis identified a number of important trends in the student engineering population:

Graduate Studies

The decision to go to graduate school seems to be significantly affected by current economic conditions. A weak labor market leads to increased graduate school enrolment. In studies on participation in engineering graduate programs, the level of student enrolment and ability to complete degree programs is relatively elastic. Since graduate student participation is impacted by economic conditions and the demand for engineers from select disciplines, the higher enrolment is likely attributable to current growth trends in Canada’s economy.

Graduate studies enrolment and degrees awarded information for 1996 found:

Participation of Women

Over the past 20 years, the number of women participating in engineering undergraduate degree programs in Canada has risen consistently, in contrast to enrolment patterns for their male counterparts which have remained stable since the early 1990s.

In summarizing the data for women in engineering programs, the enrolment report concludes:

Women’s participation in graduate studies in engineering increased to 17.7 per cent of total graduate enrolment, an average increase of 11.2 per cent per annum from 1991 to 1996. Graduate degrees awarded to women constituted 18.1 per cent of total degrees awarded, while 1996 marked a 3 per cent increase in degrees awarded to women over 1995 levels. The annual average growth rate for women’s degrees awarded from 1991 through 1996 was 12 per cent each year.

Enrolment & Degrees By Discipline

Based on research undertaken on the National Graduate Surveys database (1982 through 1995), significant changes in engineering undergraduate and graduate enrolment occurred due to shifting economic forces and related employment opportunities. To demonstrate changes which have occurred in the recent past, enrolment trends from 1991 to 1996 were charted by discipline.

Noteworthy changes in engineering enrolment included:

Meeting Canada’s Technological Needs

Enrolment and degrees awarded for Canadian engineering programs in 1996 demonstrated positive change in meeting the technological needs of Canada, as well as other nations around the world which rely upon Canadian trained engineers for the research, development and deployment of technologically advanced materials, products, processes and services.

Notable gains are:

To obtain a copy of "Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 1992 to 1996" contact Chris Lyon at CCPE, 116 Albert St., Suite 401, Ottawa, ON K1P 5G3, phone 613-232-2474 or