Canada’s post-secondary institutions are well positioned for the future, thanks to innovative approaches and a willingness to use technological advances in education. COVID-19 has challenged these institutions, but they have showed adaptability under pressure by accelerating their adoption of innovations. However, some challenges predate the pandemic such as better inclusion of equity-seeking groups in higher education. Better funding models and greater flexibility can build greater resilience and agility into the system while addressing long-standing challenges and inequities.
Canada’s post-secondary institutions are well-positioned to prepare the country for a prosperous future — they are accessible and diverse in mission and scope, offering a wide range of program offerings and formats. Despite the constraints imposed by their funding, quality control and regulatory mechanisms, they demonstrate responsiveness and innovation to labour market signals and challenges. For its part, COVID-19 has laid bare both the challenges faced by the system and the institutions within it and their ability to respond quickly, efficiently and innovatively in times of crisis. And although the Canadian system does a good job of promoting access to the post-secondary education (PSE) system, there remain significant opportunity gaps that are being filled by program innovations that circumvent the existing set of rules regarding program approval, quality and funding regimes.
Through the selection of innovative case studies, we highlight examples of how PSE institutions strive to be labour market responsive in ways that are learner-centred and accessible. However, to continue to meet the demands of the future, we conclude with some recommendations for how governments may support greater capacity for program innovation and opportunities for timely and accessible education and training opportunities.