Environmental Scan

As part of the strategic planning process, the Strategic Plan Writing Committee first undertook an environmental scan. The preliminary results of this environmental scan were shared with the Dawson community at several consultation meetings and were made available online. The environmental scan includes a review of external factors such as emerging trends in higher education, sustainability, the needs of the labour market and the barriers to education and/or employment for certain groups of individuals, and economic and demographic trends. The review of the internal factors include college-supported initiatives undertaken during the last strategic plan, continuing education, students’ use of college services, student success indicators, research and human resources.

External Factors

Trends in Higher Education

Roughly two decades of research in the fields of education and the learning sciences have demonstrated the effectiveness of certain approaches to teaching in promoting student engagement and deeper learning. This has ushered in a pervasive shift in the design of curricula and courses toward student-centred approaches to teaching. Linked to research in the learning sciences, there is ample evidence to demonstrate the strong relationship between approaches to learning and the design of learning spaces. The physical space in which learning takes place can either enhance or diminish student learning, depending on its alignment with the teaching approaches used.

A widespread global movement has brought to the forefront of discussion the role of education in the development and well-being of society. Informed, engaged, responsible citizenship has been identified as a key outcome of education that serves long-term prosperity. Emerging from these discussions are concrete strategies for the deliberate development of values, knowledge and skills that serve personal, community and global well-being. The integration of these goals within the context of higher education necessarily goes beyond program-level learning outcomes and has led to the trend of institutional-level learning outcomes to serve these purposes.

Subsequent to the rapid expansion in the accessibility of higher education in the 1970’s, colleges have been challenged with supporting students – who otherwise would not attend college – to succeed in their programs and graduate in a timely manner. Considerable experience and research have shown that the successful completion of the first year and return for the second (third semester retention) is the most critical period for help. Therefore, post-secondary institutions are now placing a strong emphasis on transition programs and on intentionally designed first-year experiences that integrate student support into curricular and extracurricular experiences.


According to the 1987 report, Our Common Future: the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future ones to meet their own needs.” One of the preeminent threats to global sustainability is climate change. The latest annual State of the Climate report has confirmed that major greenhouse gas concentrations rose to record high values in 2015 and that 2015 was the warmest year on record since the latter half of the 19th century. According to UNESCO, climate change is a complex problem because it is intertwined with many other issues such as economic development and poverty reduction.

Sustainability is recognized at the federal, provincial and municipal levels as an important issue that requires decisive action. Canada is one of the signatories to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by UN member states in September 2015 and provides a global framework for sustainable development. Both the provincial government and the City of Montreal have developed their own plans for combating climate change and promoting sustainability.


Between 2013 and 2022 more than 1.1 million people, or 27.7% of the Quebec workforce, are expected to retire. One-third of available jobs will require a technical college diploma. Some of the areas for which projected employment demand will be greater than expected supply are in nursing, finance and insurance, human resources, social service and the health, education, and community service fields. Employees who possess strong technical skills and broad skills in critical thinking, problem solving, communication, literacy, teamwork, computer literacy and numeracy are particularly valued by employers according to a 2016 report by the Business Council of Canada.

In Canada, a number of social and professional trends have driven increases in credentials for various professions. Among the pressures for changing the entry-to-practice credentials are such factors as more people working for themselves or in consultative roles, higher demands for accountability and assurance of quality, increasing job responsibilities, and competition with other professionals. Evidence of these trends can be seen in different ways across various professions. The nursing profession in Quebec has been seeking to establish the bachelor’s degree as the minimum entry requirement for that profession; the American Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) discontinued the accreditation of interior design programs (including Dawson’s) that did not culminate in a bachelor’s degree; and, in the social service field, a certain number of interventions are reserved for professionals who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Certain groups of people continue to experience barriers to full participation in the workforce. Immigrants to Quebec mostly settle in the Montreal area where they often face obstacles to employment. One important impediment is the recognition of foreign credentials; 40% of foreign-born Canadians are working in jobs in which they are overqualified according to a report prepared by TD Economics. The unemployment rate for immigrants to Quebec was 11.9%, the highest of all provinces in 2011 and double the rate of 5.6% for Canadian-born Quebecers. Language and culture pose other barriers to Quebec immigrants’ full integration into the workforce. About one-quarter of immigrants to Quebec speak neither English nor French according to a report prepared by the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion. For people with disabilities, the latest data show an employment rate of 49% compared to 79% for people without disabilities. However, people with disabilities who have a trades certificate or college diploma have employment rates (over 80%) comparable to those without disabilities.

Indigenous People

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established as part of a holistic and comprehensive response to the Indian Residential School legacy, stated that Canada needs to move from apology to action if reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people is to succeed. In 2015 the TRC released its final landmark report, which includes 94 recommendations for change in policies, programs and in the “way we talk to, and about, each other”. Some of the 94 recommendations from the report relate directly to education, including one to develop a strategy to eliminate education and employment gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. According to a report by TD Economics, 38.1% of Indigenous people had some post-secondary education in 2011 compared to 54.9% of non-Indigenous people. The latest data from Statistics Canada shows that the average employment rate for Indigenous people was 62.5% compared to 75.8% for non-Indigenous people. However, those who had completed high school or a post-secondary certificate or diploma had only slightly lower employment rates of 76.2% compared to 81.1% for the non-Indigenous population.

Economic Growth and Public Spending in Education

According to Finances Québec, real GDP will grow by an average of 1.8% between 2015 and 2019. The last provincial budget included an increase of 3% for education, but public colleges in Quebec are still suffering from recurrent budget cuts. The provincial government has, however, announced a significant increase in funding for the next several years for students with particular needs.

Changes within the CEGEP network

In June 2016, the Ministre de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur announced consultations on the creation of a Conseil des collèges du Québec and a Conseil des universités du Québec. These bodies would have the mandate to ensure collaboration, quality of programs and the harmonization of offerings in the two networks. In addition, the Ministry is continuing to explore how the College Education Regulations might be adapted to meet the challenges facing the CEGEP system and provide more flexibility in the offerings for college education. The Ministry will launch a consultation process in Fall 2016 to identify possible changes in the college regulations. Dawson must stay attuned to this process in order to be ready for any change that might flow from it.


According to the most recent demographic projections of the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, last updated in 2014, there will be a decrease in enrolments in the pre-university sector (-3%) and the technical sector (-5%) for the public college network overall, but most of the decreases will take place in colleges outside of metropolitan areas. Decreased enrolment in CEGEPs located outside the large metropolitan areas has led the Ministry to implement policies that may impede the urban colleges’ ability to develop and differentiate their offerings. For Dawson, the government has projected a 7% decrease in enrolment from 6983 in Fall 2016 to 6476 in Fall 2021. However, it should be noted that the government projections are two years out of date and previous projections have significantly diverged from Dawson’s reality of increased enrolment, which stood at 8,202 as of September 2016.

Accreditation of Medical Programs

The Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) Conjoint Accreditation Service is divesting itself of the responsibility for accrediting designated Canadian allied health care programs as of February 2018. Medical technology programs such as Dawson’s will no longer enjoy the benefits of the CMA’s mechanism which has ensured a pan-Canadian standard. This divestiture threatens a potential divergence in quality and standards which may affect labour mobility across Canada, as well as graduates’ access to American certification. The national professional associations are committed to maintaining national standards and are working to develop an accreditation process to replace that of the CMA. The challenge for the College and the accredited medical programs will be to adapt to a new process.

Internal Factors

College-supported Initiatives to Support and Enrich the Student Experience

During the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan period, the College supported many initiatives to enhance the learning environment, to support student success and to better serve society. Drawn from a solid base of research and innovation, these faculty-driven initiatives enriched, and continue to enrich, the student experience at Dawson through cross-curricular and extracurricular activities. Some of these initiatives include SPACE, Entrepreneurship, Writing in the Disciplines, Universal Design for Learning, Online Courses, Active Learning Classrooms, Model UN, Sustainable Dawson, Peace Education, the Art Gallery, international travel and student involvement in faculty-based research projects.

The College developed Journeys: A First Peoples College Transition Program. This is a one-year bridging program designed to provide Indigenous students with a holistic, supportive and culturally relevant environment for learning at the post-secondary level.

Continuing Education

Since 2004, enrolments in Continuing Education, whether measured by the number of students or the number of course seats they occupy, have more than doubled. The largest segment of activity has been the area of studies which the Ministry reorganized in 2013 to become the Springboard to a DEC program and, as of the fall of 2016, nearly 70% of the 2740 students enrolled in Continuing Education fell within that category. Historically, the largest numbers of full-time students have been in AEC or DEC programs, but that situation changed following the introduction of the Springboard. By the fall of 2016, 45% of Springboard students were full-time.

Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement

Towards the end of the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan period, the College participated in an audit of its quality assurance mechanisms and practices. This audit represents an important shift in the approach taken by the Commission d’évaluation de l’enseignement collégial (CEEC) to ensure the quality of education in Quebec’s colleges. This new approach entails a greater reliance on an institutional culture of continuous quality improvement.

Performance Indicators

A review of Dawson’s main performance indicators for student success shows an overall improvement for most indicators. Applications increased by 20% from 9,654 in 2010 to 11,603 in 2016 demonstrating that Dawson continues to be a first-choice college for many students. Since 2010 the number of qualified applicants who have been refused admission because of a lack of space has increased from 187 to 1604. The absence of space in day programs has meant a strong and generally increasing enrolment in Springboard and DEC programs in Continuing Education.

Course success rates, retention rates and graduation rates have improved for the pre-university and technical sectors, with the exception of retention for Cohort B students in some pre-university and technical programs. Student satisfaction as measured by the Student Satisfaction Inventory increased significantly from 2010 to 2015. There was a decrease in the percentage of pre-university sector students who went on to university and there is an important gap in the employment rate in the field for Dawson technical program graduates when compared to the network.


Government funding for research and non-research activities grew substantially during the 2010-2015 period. Annual research funding, primarily in the area of pedagogy, increased by 44% while support for projects to develop pedagogy, enhance teacher professional development and promote student success increased by 480% from 2012 to 2015.

Renewal of Staff

The College has experienced an important renewal of staff, hiring 403 teachers, 39 support staff, 8 professionals and 7 managers since 2010. Given the current projections for retirements, voluntary work reductions, etc., staff renewal will continue to be an important priority and challenge for the College. The development and training of new leadership, notably within academic departments and programs, will also be an important priority for the College.

Resource Management

Owing to government-imposed budget cuts to the college network, Dawson had a budgeted operating deficit of $900,000 in 2014-2015 and $2.1 million in 2015-2016. The College made a concerted effort to effectively manage its human and material resources so as to minimize the impact of the government budget cuts. The College also underwent the first phase of a thorough audit of its financial management by the Vérificateur général du Québec (VGQ) for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and will undergo a second audit for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The results of the first audit showed that the College put into place good financial controls, demonstrating that it is a good steward of public funds.


The government has recognized that the College has, with regard to its authorized enrolment capacity (devis), a shortfall of space amounting to 7000 m2, roughly equivalent to the space contained in one of the existing wings of the College. Working with the Ministry, Dawson is exploring appropriate solutions for its space needs.

International Education

As one of the leading postsecondary institutions in Quebec, Dawson College has a responsibility to give students, faculty and employees the opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge and develop the skills and perspectives required of citizens in a global community. In order to meet this responsibility Dawson has continued to support established partnerships with international educational institutions and forge new ones. During the last Strategic Plan the College solidified its international partnerships in China and France as well as establishing new partnerships with educational institutions in Mexico to promote sustainability and in Germany to promote language exchanges. In addition to partnering with international educational institutions, Dawson students have participated in international activities through programs such as the North/South profile in Social Science, complementary course trips to Costa Rica, the History trips to Europe and Photography trips to Cuba.

Dawson Foundation

The College established a Foundation in 2015. The Foundation will have an important role in increasing the College’s outreach to external partners such as alumni, employers and parents as well as to the internal community. The fostering of a philanthropic culture at Dawson and the building of its fundraising capacity will play an important role in responding to constraints imposed by the reduction of public funding to the college network. The Foundation will ensure that the revenues generated will be allocated to support the College’s strategic priorities.

Dawson College respectfully acknowledges that its campus is situated on the traditional land of First Peoples. Dawson affirms its commitment to fostering Reconciliation in Indigenous-Canadian relations in accordance with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.

Last Modified: March 21, 2017