Graduate Students With and Without Disabilities: A Comparison The Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (2016)

(Ottawa, September 19, 2018)

The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) has conducted a detailed analysis of the 2016 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS) to examine the experiences of 2,324 graduate students who identify as having a disability. Specifically, we compared their experiences to those of their non-disabled peers. The purpose of the CGPSS survey is to obtain information about graduate student satisfaction and the student experience. This analysis was completed as part of the larger “Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation for Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities in Canada” national study.

The analysis and report were completed by Kathleen Clarke, a Research Associate at NEADS. She offered the following comment regarding the timeliness of this work:

“It wasn’t until 2016 that the CGPSS had a question about disability and this is therefore the first time we have been able to dig into the experiences of such a large number of graduate students with disabilities. Comparing their experiences to students without disabilities reveals that there is still a lot of work to be done in the context of graduate education to support students’ specific needs.”

Amongst the findings, based on our analysis, of the CGPSS data -- in the report entitled Comparison of Graduate Students With and Without Disabilities Using 2016 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey Data -- are the following:

  • This report focuses on a comparison of graduate students with and without disabilities and is part of a larger research initiative called “The Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation for Students with Disabilities in Canadian Post-Secondary Education: 2016 – 2018.”
  • The focus of this report is secondary analyses that was completed on all questions of the 2016 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS).
  • Comparisons are made between graduate students without disabilities (n = 45,251) and with (2,324) disabilities [SWD]
  • Several demographic differences were found on gender (more SWD were female), age (SWD were older), citizenship status (SWD more likely to be Canadian citizens), and Aboriginal status (more SWD identified in this way).
  • Most common type of disability was mental health (43%); least common was Autism (3%)
  • 64% of respondents rated institutional efforts to accommodate them as excellent/very good/good
  • Only slight differences between the two groups in terms of type of program, degree level, year of study, program status, and academic load.
  • Most common reason for enrolling for both groups was ‘to equip me to start a career, or advance an existing career outside of academia’ (41% of students without and 36% of students with disabilities)
  • Select the same university: 71% of students without disabilities and 63% of student with disabilities said they would either ‘Definitely’ or ‘Probably’ select the same university.
  • Students without disabilities more likely to recommend their program and university to others.
  • Students without disabilities were typically more satisfied with their program, the quality of interactions, and the coursework.
  • When asked to rate various types of professional development opportunities, students without disabilities typically rated them more favourably in comparison to students with disabilities
  • When asked to rate various items concerning research experience, students without disabilities consistently rated items more favourably

The full report with the detailed findings can be found at the bottom of this press release in Word and PDF formats.

NEADS would like to thank the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (CAGS) for organizing this survey and for also granting us access to the data for our analyses.

The National Educational Association of Disabled Students gratefully acknowledges grant funding support for this research from the Social Development Partnerships Program, Employment and Social Development Canada, the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund, Government of Ontario and the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling, Counselling Foundation of Canada.

For further information about this research contact our national office:

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) Rm. 514 Unicentre, Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6 

Download and read the report here in Word and PDF formats:

With and without disabilities Word Document

With and without disabilities PDF