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1. Canada and the World


When compared to other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada does very well on one indicator: it ranks first in the number of adults with tertiary education. However, Canada only ranks 11th in bachelor’s degree attainment among OECD countries (1.8)

On other key indicators such as the teacher/student ratios (1.6) and the percentage of women university teachers (1.7) Canada is middling at best. On some indicators, Canada is near the bottom. It ranked 26th on BERD as a proportion of GDP (1.3) and 21st on GERD as a proportion of GDP (1.1) and is one of few countries to decrease research spending relative to GDP. 

Canada ranks 30th for the proportion of post-secondary education that is publicly funded (1.4). As Canada continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains to be seen whether investment in education and research will play a central role in the country’s recovery.


1.1 R&D Intensity or Gross Domestic Expenditures on Research and Development (GERD) as a Percentage of GDP

Canada lags other OECD countries in research intensity (expenditure on research and development as a percentage of GDP), the result of a continued downward trend since peaking in 2001. In 2001, Canada ranked 13th out of 36 OECD countries in GERD as a proportion of GDP but slipped to 21st by 2020. Canada is one of only five OECD countries to decrease its research intensity since 2001, from 2.02% of GDP in 2001 to 1.70% of GDP in 2020. R&D spending relative to GDP across OECD countries has increased from 2.1% of GDP in 2001 to 2.68% in 2020.

1.2 Higher Education Expenditure on R&D (HERD) as a Percentage of GDP

Canada ranked 8th in higher education expenditures on research and development (HERD) as a proportion of GDP in 2020. Canada’s HERD intensity has slipped from 2nd among OECD countries since 2004.

1.3 Business Expenditures on R&D (BERD) as a Percentage of GDP

Canada ranked 26th out of 37 countries in the OECD in business expenditures on research and development (BERD) as a share of GDP in 2020. This is well below the OECD average (0.86% of GDP in Canada compared to 1.92% of GDP across the OECD).

1.4 Proportion of Public and Private Funding in Post-Secondary Education

Canada has one of the lowest proportions of public funding of all OECD countries. It is ranked 30th out of 36 OECD countries in terms of the proportion of public funding versus private funding in 2018.

1.5 Average Salaries for Full-time University Teachers in the United States, 2021-2022 (USD)

This table shows the average salaries for full-time university teachers by rank at doctoral, comprehensive and baccalaureate institutions in the United States.

1.6 Student-Teacher Ratios, Public University-level, OECD Countries

In 2019, Canada ranked 23rd in university-level student-teacher ratios, slipping from 11th in 2014.

1.7 Post-Secondary Teachers by Gender, 2019

In 2019, Canada ranked 6th out of 34 OECD countries in terms of the percentage of women among post-secondary teachers, making up 53.8% of teachers. However, this rank drops to 15th out of 29 OECD countries at the university level, with women only making up 44.1% of the share of university teachers.

1.8 Educational Attainment of the Population, Ages 25-64, 2020

Canada ranks first in postsecondary educational attainment among OECD countries. In 2020, 60% of Canadians 25 to 64-years old had completed a postsecondary education compared to 39% on average across OECD countries. Despite this above-average attainment, Canada ranks 11th in bachelor’s degree attainment among OECD countries, with 23% of Canada’s population having attained a bachelor’s degree compared to 18% across the OECD. However, Canada ranks near the bottom of the OECD in master’s and doctoral degree attainment - 25th out of 31 OECD countries, with only 11% of Canadians having attained a master’s or doctoral degree, against the OECD average of 16%.

1.9 Relative Earnings by Educational Attainment and Sex, Ages 25-64, 2019

The same finding repeats itself across almost all OECD countries: at all levels of educational attainment, 25- to 64-year-old women earn less than their male counterparts. In Canada, women with post-secondary education earn 73% of men’s earning with similar education level – below the OECD average of 76%. This earning gap does not improve with education, women in Canada with bachelor’s education earn 74% while women with Master’s or Doctoral education earn 72% of men’s earning.

1.10 PhD Attainment Rates by Sex, OECD Countries, 2016

Unfortunately, Canada does not report educational attainment at the doctoral level to the OECD. To obtain comparable data, CAUT used the lasted Census information available. In 2016, Canada ranked 26th out of 32 OECD countries in the share of women who had obtained a PhD.

1.11 International Student Mobility and Foreign Students in Post-Secondary Education, 2019

Canada has a relatively low percentage of students going abroad to study. In 2019, Canada ranked 20th out of 31 OECD countries for the share of national students going abroad to study, representing about 3% of national students. However, Canada has one of the highest ratio of international students per national students abroad among OECD countries, ranking 6th among OECD Countries (6 international students study in Canada compare to 1 national student studying abroad).

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