Ontario’s CAAT Baccalaureates

Ontario's CAAT Baccalaureates

Project Synopsis

This PEW project, funded by the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund, examined bachelor’s degrees offered by Ontario’s colleges of applied arts and technologies. CAAT baccalaureates were first offered in 2002. Now, fifteen years later, how have these unique degrees taken their place alongside traditional baccalaureates, and in the labour market?

Coordinated by post-doctoral fellow Qin Liu, the PEW team conducted a literature review, analysed policy and accreditation documents, and studied the websites of the thirteen public colleges offering a bachelor’s degree. Diane Simpson led a comparative curriculum review, examining similarities and differences between CAAT and traditional bachelor’s degrees in three fields of study. We conducted interviews with 102 participants at seven colleges.

From our research, we concluded that Ontario’s “CAAT Baccs” have largely fulfilled their intended purposes, serving distinctive roles for students, industry, and previously underserved provincial regions. However, college degrees still have challenges in balancing their distinctiveness with their equivalence to university degrees, in building general understanding of their quality, in graduates gaining access to master’s degrees, and in discussing opportunities to further adapt regulatory standards and processes.

Project Findings: Highlights

College degrees are largely fulfilling their intended purposes…

  • Strong employment orientation and outcomes;
  • Strong regional roles;
  • Increased opportunities for non traditional students;
  • Distinctive curriculum and pedagogy; 
  • High student satisfaction;
  • Lower costs for governments and students.

However, there are also challenges and tensions:

  • Under recognised by employers and students;
  • Students are concerned by the status of their credential and all participants raised status as a challenge;
  • Balance between distinctiveness and university equivalence;
  • College bachelor graduates are having difficulties gaining access to masters;
  • Colleges claim that regulation is “onerous.”