Data shortage hurts policy

March 12, 1999

Canadian universities are making policy decisions with inadequate data, according to a Toronto researcher specialising in student surveys.

Paul Grayson, director of the Institute for Social Research, which studies higher education issues, called Canadian universities elitist for not releasing information on policies that could be used by other institutions to help shape student programmes.

The institute, based at York University, has published a study on higher education and career desires that shows that students who were unclear about their job aspirations, remained unsure after four years of study.

Mr Grayson said information from similar studies needed to be available to assess a number of assumptions. "Let us not make things up," he said of policies based on assumptions and outdated information.

Canada compares unfavourably with the United States in surveying student services and publishing qualitative analyses of the student experience. The US has an active academic study of student services and has a record of regular survey participation by most universities.

Donna Hardy, president of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services, said this research is being done in Canada but has to be better brought together.

"There is a lot of good research taking place but it is not getting published. There is no academic infrastructure for student services," she said. Ms Hardy added that universities often operate in isolation.

Kerry Delaney of the University of Toronto refuted Mr Grayson's claims, noting that last year Toronto released a landmark study on student debt and financial assistance that led to the adoption of two policies at the university.

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