Differentiation by Degrees: System Design and the Changing Undergraduate Environment in Canada
There has been a significant growth in the number and types of degrees offered by a wider variety of Canadian post-secondary institutions. This expansion of degree access is the legitimate response to various forces, both social and post secondary. However, as a result, there has been some confusion regarding the meaning and value of the new degrees offered by the increasing variety of institutions. Several provinces are now recognizing this confusion through initiatives to “redesign” their provincial post-secondary systems and this may ultimately reduce the diversity and the confusion. However, this paper examines the forces that have led to this proliferation of degrees and institutions and discusses the problems and controversies that are brewing regarding the recognition of these new degrees for further study and the proposals for system redesign. In particular, it is proposed that an examination of both the substance of various degrees and the nature of the institution offering the credential can provide a context for understanding the meaning of various degrees. Recommendations to help resolve the growing concerns in this area are provided for non-university degree-granting institutions, Canadian universities, and for provincial governments developing degree granting policies as part of system redesign initiatives.