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The academic trajectories of immigrants

University students from immigrant families face different challenges than their counterparts whose parents were born in Canada. Do these challenges have an impact on their academic trajectory?

The students’ profiles differ depending on the region of origin of their parents.

Pierre Canisius Kamanzi, an education researcher at Université de Montréal, examined the data from the Statistics Canada Youth in Transition Survey of young Canadians aged 15 in 1999 and aged 24 in 2008. He was seeking to evaluate any inequalities in terms of access, persistence and graduation from postsecondary studies according to the origin of the student’s parents.

Youth with an immigrant background were more likely to attend postsecondary education than those whose parents were born here (90% compared with 78%). However, this proportion was lower among Latin American and Caribbean students (64%). On the other hand, the latter were the most likely to persist, with more than 80% of them having obtained a university degree by the age of 24. They were followed by students with both parents born in Southeast Asia (58%). Among students with both parents born in Canada, this proportion is 22%.

Thus, it is probably not accurate to refer globally to “students with an immigrant background”, as their profiles differ depending on the region of origin of their parents. Students of Latin American and Caribbean origin attended university less frequently, but those who did were very successful. Conversely, while almost all young people whose parents were born in Sub-Saharan Africa enrolled in university (99%), only one in ten graduated with a degree (9%).

Having a better understanding of students with an immigrant background would help governments, teaching institutions and education stakeholders to better target their resources and support measures.