National Graduates Survey (NGS)

Detailed information for 2018 (class of 2015)




Every 5 years

Record number:


The National Graduates Survey collects information from persons who graduated from public postsecondary educational institutions in 2015. The questions focus on academic path, funding for postsecondary education, including government-sponsored student loans, and transition into the labour market.

Data release - To be determined


Data from this survey will be used to better understand the experiences and outcomes of graduates, and to improve government programs. The survey is designed to determine factors such as: i) the extent to which graduates of postsecondary programs have been successful in obtaining employment since graduation; ii) the relationship between the graduates' program of study and the employment subsequently obtained; iii) the graduates' job satisfaction; iv) the breakdown rates of under-employment and unemployment of graduates; and v) the type of employment obtained and qualification requirements.

This information will be used by Statistics Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), provincial and territorial departments of education, researchers and other interested organizations to examine various topics such as educational pathways, postsecondary funding, mobility, school-to-work transitions, labour market outcomes and pursuit of further post-secondary studies.

Reference period: Calendar year.

Collection period: June through November of the year that is 3 years after the reference period.


  • Education, training and learning
  • Employment and unemployment
  • Fields of study
  • Labour
  • Outcomes of education

Data sources and methodology

Target population

Persons who graduated from a Canadian public postsecondary educational institution (universities and colleges) in 2015 who are currently living in Canada. Excluded are: i) graduates who studied outside of Canada by distance education; ii) graduates of personal improvement and leisure programs; iii) graduates of CEGEP pre-university programs; iv) graduates of programs lasting less than three months; and v) completers of continuing-education programs (unless these led to a certificate, diploma or degree); vi) individuals living in an institution at the time of the survey.

Instrument design

For the first time, the NGS will be available for online self-completion, although respondents will still have the option to complete the survey over the telephone assisted by a Statistics Canada interviewer, if they wish. The questionnaire was simplified in order to facilitate respondent self-reporting and alleviate respondent burden. This was done by making the questions, response categories, introductory text, instructions, help text and examples as lean and as standard as possible. It was also accomplished by proposing a new ordering of survey questionnaire blocks and the sequence of questions within blocks. Many of the questions were reworked to incorporate harmonized content, and new questions were introduced such as a series of questions referring to work-integrated learning (WIL) and entrepreneurship.


The NGS is a cross-sectional sample survey with a stratified simple random sample design. The sample selection of graduates within strata is done without replacement using a systematic method.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2018-06-07 to 2018-11-09

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

For the first time, the NGS is using the Electronic Questionnaire (EQ) to collect data. The survey is available in the two official languages, English and French. An introductory letter is mailed out to the entire sample, containing a Secure Access Code, inviting respondents to participate online. Interviews are expected to last approximately 30 to 45 minutes. In the event respondents don't participate in a timely manner, two reminder letters will be sent. If an email address is available on file, an e-invitation and a number of e-reminders will also be sent. In the event that there is still no response, Computer-Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) follow-up calls will start. Interviewers are instructed to make all reasonable attempts to obtain interviews with the targeted respondent. For cases in which the timing of the interviewer's call is inconvenient, an appointment is arranged to call back at a more convenient time. For cases in which there is no one home, numerous call backs are made. Proxy response is not allowed. In the event that graduates have moved, or cannot be reached at the contact information available on file, various tracing methods will be used to locate them. No tracing will be done if graduates are living outside of Canada at the time of the interview. For graduates who refuse to participate, a letter will be sent stressing the importance of the survey and the graduate's cooperation.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

The electronic questionnaire (EQ) includes automated logical flows to control the questions that are asked to respondents and a limited number of soft edits that check for unusual values or inconsistencies.

The collected data will be processed using the Social Survey Processing Environment (SSPE) that was developed at Statistics Canada. The specific data processing details are still to be established, but will include steps that replicate the logic and edits in the EQ as well as additional edits and checks to ensure reasonableness and logical consistency. A mix of automated and manual editing and corrections will be applied to address extreme values and outliers.


No imputation is planned.


In order for estimates produced from survey data to be representative of the target population, and not just of the sample itself, users must incorporate the survey weights into their calculations. A survey weight is given to each person included in the final sample, that is, the sample of persons who responded to the survey questions. This weight corresponds to the number of persons represented by the respondent for the target population. If the frame used was perfect (covering exactly the population of interest) and all selected units were traced, contacted and completed the survey, then the design weight assigned to each unit, given by the inverse of the probability of selection of each unit in the sample, would represent accurately and exactly the number of graduates in the target population. In this situation, using this weight would yield unbiased estimates. However, this is not the case when surveys are faced with non-response and imperfect frames. Various weight adjustments techniques are available to compensate for these different issues, but the method to be used for the 2018 NGS is still to be developed.

Quality evaluation

To be provided when data are released.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

The survey outputs that will be disseminated through aggregate-level estimate tables will incorporate suitable rules to suppress estimates that do not meet minimum thresholds. The survey outputs will also include a share file and a public use microdata file, both of which will incorporate suitable modifications to individual-level records and variables in order to fully protect the confidentiality of all individual-level respondent data. The specific disclosure control methods to be used are still to be developed.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Data accuracy

While considerable effort is made to ensure high standards throughout all stages of collection and processing, the resulting estimates are inevitably subject to a certain degree of error. These errors can be broken down into two major types: sampling and non-sampling. Frame imperfection and non-response are important sources of non-sampling error.

The sample is designed to yield estimates of a minimal proportion of 5.5% with a maximum coefficient of variation (CV) of 10.47% within any stratum. There are two exceptions to this rule: all PhDs and all graduates from the three territories are drawn into the sample.

Response rates:
The targeted response rate for the 2018 NGS is 60%.

Non-sampling error:
There are many sources of non-sampling errors that are not related to sampling but may occur at almost any phase of a survey operation. Interviewers may misunderstand survey instructions, graduates may make a mistake in answering the questions, responses may be recorded in the questionnaire incorrectly, or errors may be made in the processing or tabulating of the data. For the 2018 NGS, quality assurance measures are implemented at each phase of the data collection process to monitor the quality of the data. These measures include precise interviewer training with respect to the survey procedures and questionnaire, observation of interviews to detect questionnaire design problems or misinterpretation of instructions, as well as coding and editing quality checks to verify the processing logic.

Non-response, if not appropriately corrected, is a type of error that can lead to bias in the survey estimates. Biased estimates can occur when unusable units have characteristics that are significantly different from the usable ones.

Non-response bias:
For the 2018 NGS, non-response may reduce the number of survey records. Extensive studies will be completed to construct proper adjustment weights to account for non-response.

Coverage error:
The survey has some under-coverage for graduates of colleges in some provinces since the data required to build the frame could not be obtained from a few institutions. Therefore, graduates from those institutions were not included on the frame and as a result could not be selected for the sample. While the methods that will be used to address coverage error are still to be developed, it is likely that no adjustments will be made at the weighting stage to compensate for this under-coverage.

Other non-sampling errors:
To be provided when data are released.

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