Chapter 7. Education and diplomas

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]89-641-x[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Along with work experience acquired over the course of a lifetime, education and diplomas obtained are basic components of an individual's human or intellectual capital. How this human capital, which immigrants bring with them, can be transferred from one jurisdiction to another is a matter that entails a number of factors, including the field of study or experience associated with this human capital, the country where it was acquired, the host country's institutional and legal framework governing the recognition of qualifications, and individual characteristics of the persons involved in the process. Clearly, the outcome of the process of obtaining recognition of qualifications and work experience acquired abroad will affect the degree of success or failure of immigrants' integration into the labour market.

Censuses provide no direct information on the recognition of diplomas or work experience acquired abroad. However, some questions shed light on the highest certificate or diploma obtained as regards the level of the diploma, the country in which it was obtained and the main field of study.

Diploma or degree obtained according to highest level of schooling

Immigrants have a higher level of education than persons born in Canada. The reason for this has to do with the selection process for independent immigrants, who are chosen based on the points system, which emphasizes education and other personal characteristics conducive to their integration into Canadian society. In the 2006 Census, at least 40% of male French FOLS and French-English FOLS immigrants have a bachelor's degree or higher (master's, doctorate), while for Canadian-born Francophones, the corresponding proportion is slightly more than 13% (table 7.1). The percentage is roughly 20% in the case of Canadian-born French-English FOLS persons. Among non-Francophone immigrants, 27% have acquired a university diploma at or above the bachelor's level.

Table 7.1 Male population aged 15 and over according to immigrant status, first official language spoken and highest certificate, diploma or degree, Canada less Quebec

The population of French FOLS immigrant males with no diploma or certificate is smaller than that with a higher degree such as a master's or doctorate, namely 3,190 in the former case compared to 5,110 in the latter. The same applies to French-English FOLS immigrants. This is not the case for any of the other three groups, in which conversely, the population of persons with no certificate or diploma exceeds the population holding a higher degree. Among non-Francophone immigrants, nearly 450,000 have no diploma or certificate, compared to 225,000 who have a master's or doctorate. In terms of relative weight, then, 30% of the Canadian-born Francophone population aged 15 and over in 2006 have no diploma. For French FOLS immigrants, the corresponding percentage is under 12 %, while for non-Francophone immigrants it reaches 19%.

The distribution of the female population according to highest diploma or certificate obtained is similar to that of males. As may be seen, female immigrants (both Francophone and non-Francophone) have a higher education level than Canadian-born females, but the differences are less pronounced than for males (table 7.2). These differences are the greatest in three categories: no diploma or certificate, bachelor's degree, and certificate or diploma above the bachelor's. Differences may also be noted between linguistic groups within the immigrant population. Similar to males, Francophone female immigrants tend to have higher-level diplomas than their non-Francophone counterparts, while the proportion of the latter who have no certificate or diploma is higher than for French-speaking female immigrants.

Table 7.2 Female population aged 15 and over according to immigrant status, first official language spoken and highest certificate, diploma or degree, Canada less Quebec

The differences between males and females vary by group defined according to first official language spoken (FOLS) and immigrant status and by level of diploma or certificate. Among Canadian-born Francophones, the percentage of males with no diploma or degree is slightly higher than the percentage of females (30% for males, 27% for females), while the opposite phenomenon is observed for immigrants overall. In their case, the proportion of females with no diploma or certificate is greater than that of males. At the other end of the education spectrum, the proportion of males with a higher degree is greater than that of females in all five groups. At other levels, the differences are smaller and are affected by the fact that there are relatively few women with a trade school certificate or diploma or an apprenticeship certificate. This results in stronger representation in the category immediately above, namely the population with a college diploma or certificate or a university certificate below the bachelor's level. The proportion of immigrants (excepting the French-English FOLS immigrant group) with a bachelor's degree is similar for males and females, while among Canadian-born Francophones, males are at a disadvantage: their proportion is 9.6%, compared to 13% for females.

Place where highest diploma or degree was obtained

It might be expected that the vast majority of immigrants would have obtained their highest certificate or diploma abroad, in light of the selection process that many immigrants undergo. However, as may be seen in table 7.3, from 45% to 60% of immigrants, whether they be Francophone or non-Francophone or male or female, obtained their highest diploma or certificate in Canada. A slightly higher proportion of male than of female immigrants obtained their highest diploma or degree abroad. Variations among groups defined according to first official language spoken (FOLS) are sizable. More than 45% of the French FOLS immigrant population obtained their highest diploma or degree abroad, which means that on the other hand, a slight majority of them did so in Canada. Conversely, among French-English FOLS immigrants and non-Francophone immigrants, a minority obtained their highest certificate or diploma in Canada, while 61% and 54% respectively received it from a foreign institution.

Table 7.3 Immigrants aged 15 and over with a certificate or a diploma according to first official language spoken and the place where the certificate or diploma was obtained, Canada less Quebec

Two main factors explain the high proportion of immigrants who received their highest academic qualification in Canada. First, a number of immigrants arrived in Canada or obtained permanent residence status at too young an age to have had the opportunity to study—or complete their education—abroad. In the 2006 Census, nearly 28% of immigrants living in Canada outside Quebec came to Canada before age 15, and 24% did so between 15 and 24 years of age. Some studies1 find that immigrants who came to Canada (and who obtained permanent residence status) before 28 years of age have a low probability of having been able to complete their university education abroad. Also, a number of foreign students choose to remain in Canada at the end of their studies, and they therefore obtain permanent residence after completing their education in Canada. However, the Canadian census does not reveal which permanent residents had foreign student status in Canada at some point in their life, although the question on the year in which permanent residence was obtained can be used to derive the age at which permanent residence was acquired.

The age at which permanent residence is acquired directly affects the percentage of immigrants who obtained their diploma or degree abroad. A minority of immigrants who came to Canada before age 25 obtained their highest diploma abroad. Among those who arrived before age 15, more than 90% obtained it in Canada; between ages 15 and 24, the percentage is around 65%. Starting at age 25, the majority of immigrants acquired their highest certificate or diploma abroad. Even at the latter ages, there is a certain gradation: the higher the age at which permanent residence is obtained, the larger the proportion of those who obtained their highest academic qualification abroad (with percentages ranging between 60% and 90%) and the smaller the proportion of those who did so in Canada. Differences according to linguistic group are small, but they confirm that French FOLS immigrants are the group with the lowest proportion having obtained their highest degree abroad.

Chart 7.1 Percentage of immigrants aged 15 and over with a certificate or a diploma obtained abroad according to first official language spoken and age at which permanenet residence was obtained, Canada less Quebec

For immigrants who acquired their highest credential abroad, it is useful to present the results based on the country or region where education was completed (Canadian-born Francophones are included here for purposes of comparison). Five geographic entities (two countries, three regions) have been identified: the United States, the United Kingdom, Francophone Europe, the rest of Western Europe with Australia and New Zealand,2 and lastly the rest of the world, where the prestige of educational institutions is known to be less than in the first four geographic entities. Francophone Europe was identified as a separate entity because French-speaking immigrants are a population of interest. Francophone Europe includes the following countries: France (excluding overseas departments and territories), Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Monaco. The contribution of the latter two countries to the European Francophonie group is quite marginal.

There are major differences by country or region among those who obtained their highest diploma or degree abroad when we compare the four groups defined according to first official language spoken (FOLS) and immigrant status. Firstly, more than 60% of Canadian-born Francophones who obtained their highest certificate or diploma abroad acquired it in the United States; the rest were distributed among the other four geographic entities (chart 7.2). For immigrants, the distributions are completely different. On the one hand, a sizable share—just over 40%—of French-speaking immigrants acquired their highest diploma or degree in Francophone Europe, especially in France. Another 40% obtained it elsewhere in the world. On the other hand, for the rest of the immigrants (including French-English FOLS), more than 70% of diplomas and certificates were obtained elsewhere in the world, that is, in a country where the prestige of educational institutions is less than in the United States and Western Europe.

Chart 7.2 Population aged 15 and over with a certificate or a diploma obtained abroad according to the country or region where the certificate or diploma was obtained, immigrant status and first official language spoken, Canada less Quebec

Field of study

The 2006 Census lends itself to examining the field of study for the highest certificate or diploma obtained in Canada or abroad. Here the analysis is limited to academic fields of study, thereby excluding certificates and diplomas for trades, in which women are poorly represented. Ten major fields of study were identified, based on a detailed classification of the different categories (of which there were more than a thousand) offered in the Census.

It is apparent from the outset that the most striking differences are between men and women, a result of differentials that continue to prevail to this day in the sexes' choices of career paths through education and participation in the labour market (chart 7.3). For example, a much larger proportion of men than of women have an education in engineering. Women, on the other hand, are over-represented in relation to their male counterparts in the health, education and social science fields.

Chart 7.3a Population of men aged 15 and over with a university certificate or diploma according to the field of study, immigrant status and first official language spoken, Canada less Quebec

Chart 7.3b Population of women aged 15 and over with a university certificate or diploma according to the field of study, immigrant status and first official language spoken, Canada less Quebec

Also, major differences may be observed between groups defined according to first official language spoken (FOLS) and immigrant status. French-speaking persons born in Canada stand out from their immigrant counterparts firstly by the fact that a low proportion of them have a university degree in engineering, or, to a lesser extent, a university degree in natural sciences; conversely, they are proportionally more likely to have a certificate or diploma in education. French FOLS immigrants too stand out by the low percentage of them who have a university degree in engineering, in this case in relation to other immigrants (including both French-English FOLS and non-Francophones); however, they are more highly represented in education, the social and behavioural sciences and the humanities.

Non-Francophone immigrants and French-English FOLS immigrants have similar distributions according to the field of study for the highest university certificate or diploma. They are proportionally much more likely to have an engineering diploma than French-speaking native-born Canadians and immigrants, whereas they are less well represented in education and, for men, the humanities and social and behavioural sciences. In other fields, especially those related to health and to business and commerce, the four groups exhibit similar proportions.

Regional variations in university education

Regional variations are examined based on the proportion of persons with a completed university diploma or certificate. In light of the sizable variations in education levels by age (or birth cohort) and sex within the population, the proportions were standardized by age and sex to neutralize the effects of the age and sex composition of each group on the proportions calculated.

The results show that between 40% and 50% of Francophone immigrants outside Quebec have a university certificate or diploma, which are much higher proportions than for the other two groups (chart 7.4). Of the three groups, the proportions are lowest for native-born Canadians (between 10% and 30%). There is nothing surprising in this finding, considering the selection process (which takes education level into account) undergone by some immigrants wishing to settle in Canada. But the education level of Francophone immigrants is also markedly higher than that of non-Francophone immigrants; among them, the percentage with a university diploma or certificate ranges between 25% and 40% (except in Ottawa, where the percentage is 44%).

Chart 7.4a Proportion (standardised by age and sex) of the population aged 25 to 64 with a university certificate or diploma according to immigrant stauts and first official language spoken (after redistribution of the French-Englsih category) by regions, Canada less Quebec

Chart 7.4b Proportion (standardised by age and sex) of the population aged 25 to 64 with a university certificate or diploma according to immigrant stauts and first official language spoken (after redistribution of the French-Englsih category) for selected census metropolitan areas, Canada less Quebec

In summary, French FOLS immigrants stand out both from Canadian-born Francophones and the rest of immigrants (French-English FOLS and non-Francophone) in terms of their education level and the characteristics of degrees obtained.

The education level of French FOLS immigrants is similar to that of French-English FOLS immigrants but higher than that of native-born Canadians and non-Francophone immigrants, for both males and females. French FOLS immigrants differ from other immigrant groups in that a large proportion of them obtained their diploma or certificate in Canada. Also, of those who obtained their diploma or certificate abroad, a larger proportion obtained it in Western Europe, especially in a Francophone country with France in the lead.

A smaller proportion of French FOLS immigrants acquired a university diploma or certificate in engineering compared to other immigrants (French-English FOLS et non-Francophone).

On the basis of these findings, it is difficult to predict the chances of positive labour market outcomes for French FOLS immigrants compared to other immigrants. On the one hand, the education level and the place where the diploma or certificate was obtained would tend to favour their integration into the Canadian labour market; on the other hand, the low proportion of them with an engineering diploma or certificate could have the opposite effect.


Notes

  1. Monica Boyd & Grant Schellenberg, Re-accreditation and occupations of immigrant doctors and engineers, Canadian Social Trends, No. 84, 2007, Cat. no. 11-008, pp. 2-10.
  2. Because of the small number of nationals of Australia and New Zealand, this group was combined with non-Francophone and non-Anglophone Western Europeans. The first four geographic entities represent the regions of the world where the quality of education is considered to be the best. On this subject, see Arthur Sweetman, Immigrant Source Country Educational Quality and Canadian Labour Market Outcomes, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, 2004, Cat. no. 11F0019MIE, No. 234.
Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: