Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
Conditions for Student SUCCESS at the University Level

In a brief released on April 18, the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation invites the Minister of Education and the university milieu to adopt conditions for student success that reflect the obstacles and critical thresholds that students encounter throughout their university education: admission to university, the actual university studies, graduation and their social and professional integration.

When releasing the brief at the Université de Montréal, Conseil president Céline Saint-Pierre recalled the commitments regarding academic success and the qualification of young people made at the Québec Youth Summit. She also stressed the importance of clearly defining "success", particularly in a context where the performance of universities is a key element in Québec’s recent policy on universities.

The meaning of success

The Conseil feels that a student’s acquisition of knowledge and skills in the higher education context should promote his or her professional, artistic, scientific, cultural, civic and personal growth.

While agreeing that society’s expectations related to graduation rates are legitimate, the Conseil points out that student success is based on more than one indicator. Success is built on a daily basis and must also include an element of continuous knowledge renewal, within a perspective of lifelong education.

Supporting commitment to studies

The Conseil supérieur de l’éducation analyzes the new relationship between students and their studies and the resulting needs. Labour market fluctuations and social changes affecting young people lead to more diversified academic paths and slow the pace of students’ university studies. Commitment to study is less exclusive than in the past, due, in some cases, to extensive part-time work. In certain sectors, employers may even hire a student before he or she has completed the program of studies.

Since student commitment to studies is the prime condition for success, the Conseil recommends that the Minister of Education implement favourable conditions, which enable young adults to devote themselves to their studies on a full-time basis, in particular by increasing financial support. Employers must also cooperate to encourage students to persevere until they actually obtain their degree.

The Conseil also considers that it is no less important for universities continue to admit and support part-time students. To boost the low percentage of degrees achieved by these students, it recommends that services and measures designed to promote success, already implemented in the universities, also be made available to part-time students.

Addressing disparities in success rates

The Conseil supérieur de l’éducation notes the difficulties encountered by men and women at specific points in their university studies. The problems that boys experience earlier in their schooling often exclude them from university studies or restrict their access to certain programs of study. As for women, while they have made remarkable progress, they remain under-represented in the pure sciences, in engineering and at the doctoral level. Moreover, with an equivalent education, men fare better on the labour market.

The Conseil also notes the more fragile position of students from underprivileged backgrounds with regard to university admission and academic persistence. It recommends better support, notably during integration into undergraduate studies.

Maintaining high standards

The Conseil is aware that not all students enter university as prepared as they should be. Weaknesses vis-à-vis university requirements are most often related to work methods and language or science skills. At the graduate level, some students lack proper research training.

Although preparatory training offered by the university can help students with minor shortcomings, the Conseil believes that it is not suited to serious deficits that are almost certain to result in failure.

The Conseil also discusses the importance of the professor-student relationship and support services in enhancing student success. It notes the efforts made to date in terms of program quality, teaching methods and student supervision. However, it recommends that the universities more specifically diagnose student needs where persistence is concerned and more systematically evaluate the assistance measures they implement.

New EDUCATIONAL Objectives


In its brief Réussir un projet d’études universitaires : des conditions à réunir [Conditions for student success at the university level] , the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation proposes new educational objectives, both for admission to university studies and for graduation rates.

It recommends a target objective, to be attained no later than 2010, of 40% of Quebecers under age 30 accessing undergraduate university studies, with 30% obtaining their bachelor’s degree; 10% of the population accessing master’s level studies, with 7% obtaining their degree; and 2.3% pursuing doctoral studies, with a graduation rate of 1.5%.

Tenuous accomplishments, particularly in the outlying regions

Although the Conseil is pleased that most of the objectives for the year 2000 that it had defined in 1992 have been exceeded or virtually achieved, it also notes that, in terms of improving the population’s level of education, these accomplishments continue to be tenuous.

It points out that significant disparities continue to exist between Québec’s regions. In 1996, only four regions (Montréal, Québec, Outaouais and Laval) posted a higher university attendance rate than the provincial average of 20.2% of the population aged 15 or over.

The Conseil recommends that, in the other regions, concrete measures be implemented to support the development of university-level education. It feels that this objective is closely tied to the economic future and sociocultural development of Québec society.

Panorama • Volume 5, Number 2 • May 2000

Document complet - in French (PDF)


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