A study of post-secondary institutions in more than 30 countries revealed that the majority of students are not taking majors that are in high demand by employers, and Ryerson’s students are not an exception.
The study is called Education at a Glance 2017 and it was conducted by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last September. The OECD is an intergovernmental organization made up of 35 member countries including Canada.
The survey showed that the most popular courses among students are law, business and administration, and make up 29 per cent of enrolments in universities in OECD countries. The skills employers demand most are in engineering and information technology (IT) but only 16 per cent of students are taking engineering and only five per cent are taking IT.
Ryerson’s enrolment numbers are very much in line with the findings of the report. According to statistics provided to the Ryersonian by the university’s planning office, Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) is the most populous faculty. It comprises of just over 10,000 undergrad students—making up approximately 31 per cent of Ryerson’s roughly 35,000 strong student body.
Engineering on the other hand only makes up 14 per cent of enrolees at Ryerson, and only three per cent of students are part of Ryerson’s two computer science programs.
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi says that a diverse mosaic of factors are considered when deciding on academic policy, and not just student and employer demand.
“It is a very complex situation. We look at the state of the economy, that’s one aspect of it. We work with professions [sic], we work with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to see the trend that is happening. Of course, we also take into consideration the demand from students,” Lachemi said.
According to an emailed statement to the Ryersonian from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD), universities have a lot of freedom to design their curriculums.
“Each university is an independent entity with full authority to determine its own administrative processes, and academic and operational policies including developing and offering specific programs,” said Ingrid Anderson from the ministry’s media relations unit.
The overall authority to design and enact the university’s academic policy at Ryerson falls on the school’s senate office. Part of their decision-making process includes the use of advisory councils in each program. Volunteers from their respective fields advise on things like curriculum, industry trends and program review.
However, a news release provided by the OECD the same day their study came out said, “New evidence shows that universities can fail to offer, and individuals fail to pursue, the fields of study that promise the greatest labour-market opportunities.”
When asked about why Ryerson’s enrolment numbers favour business and administration, Lachemi said, “That is all based on the demand. At the end of the day, students are applying for programs, and you have to accommodate those demands. But we also have limits. You cannot necessarily increase the numbers of students even if you have a huge demand in engineering. You cannot compromise quality and just accept more students in engineering.”
Despite the report and its findings, the OECD emphasized that a university education is still a worthwhile pursuit. They said, “Adults with a tertiary degree benefit from substantial returns on their investment: they are 10 percentage points more likely to be employed, and will earn 56 per cent more on average than adults who only completed upper secondary education.”