Ontario’s CAAT Baccalaureate

Applied baccalaureate degrees have only recently entered the Canadian higher education landscape. The first applied degrees were offered in British Columbia in the 1980s. Applied degrees are now offered in five Canadian provinces.[1] Applied baccalaureates, more so than traditional undergraduate degrees, are designed with the labour market in mind. Graduates combine high-level knowledge embodied in a traditional baccalaureate with work-relevant, hands-on skills and experiences.

It has been almost fifteen years since Ontario’s Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs) began offering baccalaureate degrees. How are these newcomer degrees impacting students, employers, colleges, and the Ontario post-secondary sector as a whole? Funded by the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund[2] The CAAT Baccalaureates Project is investigating outcomes to date for these newer Ontario degree offerings.

The PEW team launched this study in the fall of 2016. We will look at how applied degrees are developed and administered in Ontario colleges. Interviews with policy makers, college leaders and instructors will yield insights and perspectives on the successes, challenges, and future prospects of applied baccalaureates. The research team will also interview present students of degree programs, learning about their career trajectories, and their reasons for pursuing an applied degree. Finally, the project will draw on statistical data to analyze the uptake of applied degrees in the Ontario labour market since 2010.

Applied baccalaureates are distinctive degree offerings, compelling for their potential to provide new education-to-work pathways, and meet the needs of students who are not attracted to, or served by traditional four-year university degree programs. Findings from the “CAATBacc” project will help government and institutional policy makers to evaluate the success of applied degrees to date, and plan for their future roles in the Ontario credentials landscape.

The project has received funding from the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. The research team includes Professors Leesa Wheelahan, Michael Skolnik and Gavin Moodie, Post-Doctoral Fellow Qin Liu, and Graduate Assistants Diane Simpson and Edmund G. Adam.

[1] For a summary, see this presentation by Michael Skolnik (2013). For a fuller account, see: Skolnik, Michael K. (2013). Reflections on the nature and status of the applied baccalaureate degree: Drawing upon the Canadian experience. In Nancy Remington & Ronald Remington (Eds.), Alternative pathways to the baccalaureate. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus

[2] OHCRIF grants are administered by the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development