CIC - Fall 2018

Getting a Bachelor’s degree… at College?


Applied Degrees offered by colleges & institutes fill a vital labour market niche.

For many people a university education can seem almost impossible, with financial and geographical challenges presenting sometimes insurmountable odds. But going to university is not the only way to get a degree.

You may be surprised to know that many colleges and institutes across Canada are also offering bachelor’s degree programs and even some post-graduate programs covering a wide range of subjects including technology, medicine, communications, business management and more.

With colleges providing quality degree programs, options for students are seemingly endless. College classes tend to be more intimate, with plenty of opportunity for student/instructor interaction. Geographically, there are many more options for students when they are contemplating where they wish to study. Additionally, colleges generally have well-established relationships with potential employers who provide them with input on course studies and access to work placement programs giving students real-world experience.

Margaret Cusson, Dean, Academic Development at Algonquin College in Ottawa explains this up-and-coming trend in post-secondary education, “This came about very organically almost 20 years ago as a result of the changing labour market. More and more employers were asking for degrees in specific fields — namely, that graduates had the benefits of both degree-level learning and the vocational skills to meet the evolving needs of various industries and sectors, including technology and health. Additionally, many professional associations have begun changing their educational requirement to degrees. For example, in order to practice interior design in Ontario, you are now required to have a degree in this field.”

Thor Borgford, VP Academic and Provost of Douglas College in Vancouver agrees, “…there was a large unmet demand for post-secondary degrees. The demand could not be met by the universities alone. Colleges are able to fill an important niche by offering ‘applied’ degrees that are more tuned to labour-market demand than some traditional/general degrees.”

There are so many benefits for students enrolled in degree programs at colleges and institutes.

Borgford shares, “Students receive instruction in classes that are limited to 35 to 40, rather than classes that contain literally hundreds of students. The cost of tuition is typically much lower at Douglas College than at research institutions – yet nothing is sacrificed in terms of teaching quality or student experience. Our degree graduates are regularly surveyed and report a very high degree of satisfaction with their credentials and extremely high levels of employment in the disciplines that they studied.”

“Many of the degree programs offered by colleges are programs that universities typically do not offer, and so these programs are a little more unique in their specific ability to provide both the degree-level learning and vocational and experiential skills so necessary for employment,” adds Cusson. “All degree programs offered in Ontario colleges have a work-integrated learning component that is typically a co-op or work placement. This gives students the advantage of having experience to apply their learning directly in the work environment, and gain skills that would not otherwise be gained in the classroom. They establish relationships and otherwise re-affirm their chosen field, so that the students have more confidence applying for employment after graduation.”

Entrance requirements for degree programs at colleges vary across the nation. In most cases, the requirements for college courses are equally as demanding as they are at universities. However, unqualified applicants are usually able to upgrade their education through alternate programs offered at their chosen post-secondary institution.

Whether the degree program is at a college or a university, students are expected to gain their designation through hard work and responsible studies. A college degree is just as well-earned as a university degree, but the potential for employment can be greater with a college education due to strong industry connections and work placement programs.

“Degree standards are provincial and students (and parents) should feel assured that degrees offered by either colleges or universities meet the same provincial degree standards. Students should look at the diversity of degree offerings, and also feel confident in knowing that in choosing to complete their degree at a college, they will have employment-ready skills,” Cusson says.

With more and more students following their dreams of obtaining a degree, colleges and institutes continue to listen to industry leaders and are building and changing their course menus to provide the most meaningful educational experience possible.

Borgford enthuses, “This is a truly great time to be attending Douglas College. The College is growing, and growing well. The number of robust, applied, degree options is increasing. During this past year we added a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and this September we will launch a brand new Bachelor of Business Administration in Management, with concentrations.  Simultaneously, I have seen an increased dynamism and renewed sense of purpose among College employees – all of which is reflected in a terrific vibe within our student population.” Choosing between university and college for a degree program will not make a student a successful graduate. Students should be encouraged to explore all of their options for post-secondary education and choose a career that provides the best fit.

By Jackie Fritz