Many recent immigrant adult students (RIAS) are highly trained in their source countries and anticipate finding suitable employment upon arriving in Canada. (In this study, RIAS are defined as individuals over 24 years of age who have been living in Canada as permanent residents or citizens for less than 10 years.) There is mounting evidence, however, that in recent years the process of obtaining meaningful employment has become significantly more difficult for RIAS in particular. As a consequence, increasing numbers are turning to the Canadian postsecondary education (PSE) system to obtain more credentials and work experience as a means of gaining better access to employment. However, current research suggests that after entering universities and colleges, newcomers such as recent immigrants face a number of unexpected barriers to educational success, including lack of proficiency in either of Canada’s official languages; non-recognition of foreign transcripts and prior work experience; financial constraints; and insufficient knowledge concerning how the Canadian PSE system operates.
With increasing numbers of RIAS attending Ontario PSE institutions, there is growing concern that their learning needs may not be met, leading to decreased academic and employment success. Unfortunately, it appears that most PSE institutions have not identified RIAS as a group with unique learning needs. Academic success in PSE requires that students be fully
engaged and that they have access to resources that enhance engagement. There is a paucity of research concerning the degree to which RIAS are engaged in both academic and nonacademic components of Canadian PSE. Although all PSE institutions provide a variety of student services, there is no evidence that RIAS utilize them or that any particular benefits accrue in terms of promoting academic and social integration to even those RIAS who do use student services. This multi-institutional research study was conducted with the financial support of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The study objectives included the following:
• developing a preliminary scale to measure RIAS engagement, consisting of academic and non-academic involvement in PSE,
• describing the demographic and institutional factors that influence RIAS engagement within their academic environment,
• identifying the unique immigration challenges of RIAS in PSE programs,
• identifying service needs and utilization patterns of RIAS, and
• developing recommendations for educational policy and service delivery changes within the Ontario PSE system.
The study also included exploration of the following research questions:
1. To what extent do RIAS become engaged with the academic community at the PSE institutions that they choose to attend?
2. What demographic and institutional factors influence their degree of academic engagement of RIAS?