Eduvation Blog

PSE Programs: Hot and Not

Good morning!

I’m looking forward to moderating a panel discussion this afternoon at the SEMM Forum Online, with 3 presidents: Janet Morrison (Sheridan), Gervan Fearon (Brock), and Benoit-Antoine Bacon (Carleton). Our topic is “After the Plague: Has PSE Changed for Real this Time?” You probably know what I think, but I look forward to hearing from these respected campus leaders.

Today I thought I would sift through some recent reports on North American enrolment trends by discipline, to pull out some impressions and highlights of which programs seem to be hot right now, and which are… not.  You can get plenty more detail from HESA’s State of PSE in Canada 2020 report, and this analysis of US data in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, in particular.

But first – 450 students violate COVID19 protocols at UNC Chapel Hill, about 20 more cases on CdnPSE campuses, and Algonquin College is the first I’ve seen to announce that primarily remote delivery will continue through FALL 2021…


COVID on Campus

UNC Chapel Hill has >450 reports of students violating COVID19 health and safety rules between Aug 1 – Oct 31. As a result, 55 students were evicted from campus housing, but the majority received merely written warnings or minor disciplinary actions. “Students are scheduled to move back into their dorms in January.”  US News

There were roughly 20 new CdnPSE cases of COVID19 announced yesterday.

Quebec’s Santé Estrie has started to release information about outbreaks on campuses in the Eastern Townships…

Bishop’s U reportedly has a new outbreak of <5 cases of COVID19.

Cégep de Granby reportedly has <5 cases in progress.

Cégep de Sherbrooke reportedly has <5 cases in progress.

uSherbrooke reportedly has <5 cases in progress.

3 Ontario institutions also reported new cases…

Durham College reported 2 more student cases of COVID19 yesterday, one at the Oshawa campus Nov 12, and the other studying off-campus. (That makes 24 cases this fall, and 10 in the past week).  DC

Fleming College reported Sunday that a student recently tested positive for COVID19. The student was last on campus Nov 9. (This is the first Fleming case I have noticed this fall.)  Global

Trent U has reported what I think is its 2nd case of COVID19 this fall, “an individual living off-campus” who was last on campus Nov 13.  Global


CdnPSE Updates

The first Canadian institution I know of has announced that it will continue to be primarily remote right through the Fall of 2021 – for another 12 months. (Admittedly, I’ve been projecting this as highly likely, but I am nonetheless surprised that an institution has officially admitted it so soon.)

Algonquin College announced yesterday that all on-campus events are cancelled until Jun 30 2021, and that the current model of “limited on-campus and primarily remote course delivery is anticipated to continue through the Fall of 2021.” However, president Claude Brulé adds, “we remain hopeful and prepared to expand on-campus offerings, pending any changes with the pandemic and public health guidelines.”  Algonquin

Meanwhile other institutions are still making announcements about the Winter 2021 term…

U Canada West has announced that all classes will remain online for the rest of the Fall 2020 term. “Classes can resume on campus for the Winter 2021 term.”  Twitter

Royal Roads U reports that half of its F2F programs will return to campus in Jan 2021, for hybrid learning. The 5 programs, which will bring ~200 students to campus, are undergrad and grad degree programs in global management, hospitality, tourism and environmental management.  RRU


Hot Programs

A number of organizations have released information that hints at student demand for programs in the health sciences, and graduate programs in particular…

Medical Schools in the US report record application numbers, up 17% by the end of August to almost 50,000 – a level of interest not seen in more than a decade, according to the AAMC. Students may be compelled by the attention the COVID19 pandemic has focused on medical careers, but also because many schools have dropped the MCAT exam requirement after many testing sites were closed. Stanford reports its applications have risen 50% this year.  Wall Street Journal

Masters of Public Health programs across the US have reportedly seen a 20% surge in enrolment as the COVID19 pandemic brings its leading practitioners into the public eye.  Some 40,000 students applied this fall, according to the ASPPH. Applications to MPH programs at Brown U rose 75%, and to Florida International U rose 63%. There should be plenty of career opportunities: half of public health workers planned to retire or leave their jobs within 5 years, even before COVID19. (Since April, >100 PHOs have retired, quit, or been fired.) Of course, in the US they may not make a living wage: some “are paid so little that they qualify for public aid.”  AP

“Our students have been both indignant and also energized by what it means to become a public health professional. Indignant because many of the local and the national leaders who are trying to make recommendations around public health practices were being mistreated. And proud because they know that they are going to be part of that frontline public health workforce that has not always gotten the respect that it deserves.”Patricia Pittman, Prof of Health Policy, George Washington U


Science and Engineering enrolments seem to be rising fastest at Canadian universities, judging from HESA’s State of PSE in Canada 2020. Business and Health enrolments are also pretty stable. Science, Business and Engineering enrolments are growing most at Canadian colleges in the past few years.  HESA


The Chronicle of Higher Ed reports that in the US, there has been significant growth in the number of degree programs being offered in certain areas over the past decade…

Health Professions have seen +900 new programs launch, including +145 in Nursing, +135 in Public Health, +112 in Healthcare Administration, +101 in Neuroscience, and +98 in Health Sciences and Allied Health.

Business, Management and Marketing have seen +668 new programs launch, including +148 in Communication, +133 in Sport Management, +106 in Organizational Leadership, +100 in Finance, +95 in Marketing, and +87 in Entrepreneurship.

Visual & Performing Arts have seen +556 new programs launch, including +57 in Digital Arts, +56 in Musical Theatre (what I’d be tempted to call the Glee effect).

Biological & Biomedical Sciences have seen +486 new programs launch, including +103 in Biochemistry.

Engineering has seen +394 new programs launch.


5 Online Bachelors with Potential

Online undergraduate degree completion in the US rose at 20x the rate of in-person degrees between 2017-2019, and student demand grew 260% faster than supply, particularly among older adults. But Pareto’s Law also applies: the largest 20% of institutions graduated about 80% of online undergrads. EAB researchers identified 5 programs with strong increases in online completion (pre-COVID19) and few dominant competitors: Health Care Administration, Accounting, Criminal Justice, Business, and Nursing. (They caution that regional employer demand should also be considered.)  EAB

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate enrolments grew 24% this fall at US colleges, although bear in mind that they are a small fraction of higher ed enrolment. (~51,000 post-baccalaureate degrees were conferred in 2019, out of a total of ~1M credentials.) Since 2001 the number of conferrals has tripled, and programs have been multiplying at 9% annually. With ~13,000 grad cert programs offered, the median was just 4 conferrals a year per program. “In such a small and competitive market… strong results are the exception, not the rule.”  EAB


And Not

As American higher ed grapples with major deficits and funding cuts in the wake of COVID19, almost half of university presidents expect to cut academic programs. Many appear to be targeting disciplines that have been shrinking over the past decade, as detailed by the Chronicle of Higher Ed

Foreign Languages, Literatures and Linguistics degree programs have been waning for a decade, with about -247 disappearing. Major program closures include French language and literature (-85), Spanish (-80), German (-67), Russian (-36), and Latin (-24). Illinois Wesleyan U decided to close its departments of French and Italian in July. Wittenberg U (Ohio) has just discontinued degrees in Japanese, Russian, and Central Eurasian studies. Because many of these programs are taught by contract faculty, they can be easy targets for cuts.

Teachers’ College programs are also being closed (-395 in the past decade) including Phys Ed Teaching (-94), Business Teacher Ed (-60), Math Teacher Ed (-60), Soc Studies Teacher Ed (-40), Religious Ed (-39), Art Teacher Ed (-38), Health Teacher Ed (-35), Health & Phys Ed (-34), and many others. U South Florida has recently announced it will be closing its College of Education.

Philosophy & Religious Studies programs have shrunk by -31 in the past decade.

Social Sciences programs have also been closed, from SocSci General (-78) and US Studies (-46), to Sociology (-39), Psychology (-33), and Geography (-20). Illinois Wesleyan U has announced it is cutting its department of Anthropology, and Wittenberg U (Ohio) its degrees in Geology.

Humanities enrolments seem to be falling precipitously at Canadian colleges and universities since 2011, judging from HESA’s State of PSE in Canada 2020, and Education enrolments are struggling.  HESA



I came across this one a while ago, but I still think it’s a nicely upbeat vid about a bridging and support program…

Enriched Support Program

“I didn’t think I was intelligent enough to even be in university,” explains Sephora, an upbeat and dynamic young woman who waxes enthusiastic about her programs at Carleton. “Schooling was never my strong suit,” explains Sheldon, an Indigenous student in Film Studies. And Samantha came back to school after 10 years to love the Psychology program. “Don’t let a couple of F’s… prevent you from being successful in life.” The upbeat way in which these students talk about their anxieties and challenges is really a pleasant surprise and worth 3 minutes…  YouTube


Thanks for reading!  Be safe and stay well,



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