Globally, a rising number of students want to gain university qualifications in Canada a country with a top-ranking education system but many students lack the language skills and/or academic background. Hence the country’s university pathway programmes are rapidly gaining in popularity, according to various universities and colleges.
“Interest in pathway programmes has definitely increased over the past few years,” affirms Bruce Condie at Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo, BC, “as [these] programmes offer entry points to international education for people who would not have access with the traditional methods of entry.” In order to cater for the divergent backgrounds and needs of overseas students, VIU has developed its programme provision in recent years, with courses covering communication skills (seven or 14 weeks) and academic preparation skills (14 weeks). The university even has a high school on campus, Condie says, “which offers students an opportunity to get a Canadian high school diploma and be offered guaranteed entry into our university programmes”.
While Condie estimates that roughly 80 per cent of pathway students stay at the university for further academic study, all students at the University of Victoria (UIV), BC remain at the institution after the pathway course, that is specifically designed for UIV, ends. The university recently introduced a University Pathway Program for International Students, of 12 months in duration. It is a full-time ESL course combined with economics, pre-business, science or engineering tuition, and counts as a full year of credit towards the students’ undergraduate degrees. “This allows students to finish their degrees in less time and [spend] less money,” explains Ramona Hamilton Cook at the English language centre at the university, adding that the course has gained in popularity with Chinese, Eastern European, Turkish and Korean markets. Highlighting that students need support beyond the classroom, she relates that “UIV has set up the International Learning Commons”, where students can get assistance with homework, work permits and other issues. To apply, students need an official transcript and an Ielts score of 5.5 or equivalent, Cook says.
Canadian colleges provide worthwhile pathway options too, as Adrian Lipsett at Alexander College in Burnaby and Vancouver, BC, reveals. The institution first launched pathway programmes when it opened five years ago, as “it became apparent that a smaller institution would be well-positioned to help students bridge the cultural, linguistic and educational divides many of them face when first arriving in Canada”. As well as an English for academic purposes programme, the institution offers a university transfer programme allowing students to study a number of subjects, including economics, history and Asian studies.” Being members of British Colombia’s transfer programme (BCCAT), we are able to offer a wide selection of first and second year courses that transfer to all post-secondary institutions within the province,” Lipsett adds. “The duration of the university transfer programme is left up to the students; some choose to take only a few courses with us, while others will take a full two years usually to obtain an Associate of Arts degree in British Colombia.”
Meanwhile, David Oancia at Niagara College in Niagara-on-the-lake, ON, highlights, “By coming to Niagara College, students are not only able to save money college studies are cheaper than university in Canada but also are able to successfully manage the rigours of North American academic life.” Some of the college’s pathway programmes, which vary in duration, include the English for Academic Preparation programme, which allows students to enrol without an official Ielts or Toefl iBT score, and the Academic English for College and University Studies (Aecus) course, which combines ESL preparation with elective academic tuition.
For students who exceed 750 in the Toeic placement test, the Aecus programme is not only seeing college students enrol, “but also students who are interested in a gap semester of studies”, notes Oancia. And with a growing number of students having high ESL proficiency at a young age, “many students are looking towards Aecus as it provides them with the [opportunity] to learn with native Canadians in an academic setting”, he adds.
A number of contributors cite the use of agents for recruitment purposes, including Condie from VIU who comments, “We consider new agents if they are giving us access to a part of the world that we do not already have. One of the increasingly important marketing avenues is the use of social media.”
A snapshot of pathway programmes offered in Canada
(Due to the complexity of the data, this article is only displayed in the digital issue of Study Travel Magazine)