National Graduates Survey (NGS)

Detailed information for 2020 postsecondary graduates (cycle collected in 2023)




Every 5 years

Record number:


The National Graduates Survey (NGS) focuses on the education and labour market experiences of people who graduated from a Canadian public postsecondary educational institution in 2020. The questions focus on academic path; funding for postsecondary education, including government-sponsored student loans; and the transition into the labour market. The survey will also explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education and employment of graduates.


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 collect details on topics 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 their subsequent employment
iii) the type of employment obtained and the qualification requirements
iv) sources of funding for postsecondary education
v) government-sponsored student loans and other sources of student debt
vi) the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education and employment of graduates.

The data will be used by Statistics Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, provincial and territorial ministries 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 the pursuit of further postsecondary studies.

A major redesign was done for the 2018 collection cycle (2015 graduates). The objectives of the redesign were to revise the sampling method, adopt a new sampling frame, modernize the content and revise the target population. Consultations were conducted with federal, provincial and territorial sharing partners and university researchers. As a result of the redesign, care should be taken when comparing data from previous cycles with data published for the 2018 cycle and beyond.

The 2023 collection cycle (2020 graduates) was built on the content used for the 2018 collection cycle (2015 graduates). It also includes new content on online learning and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education and employment of graduates.

Reference period: Calendar year.

Collection period: April through August of the third year after the reference period.


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

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The NGS target population for the 2023 cycle consists of all graduates from a recognized public postsecondary Canadian institution who graduated from their program sometime in 2020 and were living in Canada at the time of the survey.

- Graduates of university programs that lead to a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree, or that lead to specialized certificates or diplomas
- Graduates of postsecondary programs (that is, programs that normally require a secondary school diploma or its equivalent for admission) in colleges of applied arts and technology, Collèges d'enseignement général et professionnel (technical CEGEP in Quebec), community colleges, technical schools or similar institutions
- Graduates of skilled trades (that is, pre-employment programs that are normally three months or more in duration) from postsecondary institutions (many community colleges and technical institutes offer certificates or diplomas at the trade level)

- Graduates from private postsecondary institutions (for example, computer training and commercial secretarial schools)
- Graduates who completed "continuing education" courses at universities and colleges (unless they led to a degree or diploma)
- Graduates in apprenticeship programs
- Graduates in a postsecondary program of less than three months' duration

Instrument design

The content for the NGS was developed in collaboration with specialists from Statistics Canada, other departments and/or academia. The questions were designed to be answered directly by the respondent using an online electronic questionnaire (EQ) or computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) to track initial non-response. The questions in the EQ were designed to logically follow conditions, such as previous responses and non-responses, according to the modules.

The content of the NGS is composed of groups of questions (called modules), which relate to a particular theme of the educational path and experiences in the labour market. Several new questions have been introduced in different modules for the 2020 graduate cycle to meet new data needs, including a series of questions relating to online learning, quick training of less than three months (microcredential), work-integrated learning and COVID-19.

To reduce response burden, the EQ excludes the module on reported personal income and benefits paid to graduates in 2020 under the Canada Emergency Student Benefit and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. These data are taken from administrative files from the Canada Revenue Agency.


The NGS is a cross-sectional sample survey with a stratified simple random sample design. Two variables were used for stratification: (i) province or territory of the institution and (ii) level of study (college, bachelor's, master's or doctorate). The sample selection of graduates within strata was done without replacement using a systematic method.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2023-04-03 to 2023-08-13

Data collection for this reference period: The survey began collecting data in 1978 for 1976 graduates and was repeated, on average, every five years.

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents and extracted from administrative files.

Survey data collection
- Data collection for the NGS starts on April 3, 2023, and ends on August 13, 2023.
- Invitation letters are sent by mail on April 3, 2023.
- Interviewer-administered CATI follow-up data collection begins on May 3, 2023.
- Over the course of the three-month period of data collection, three reminder letters, reminder emails and SMS (Short Message Service) will also be sent.

Administrative data
A tax data use strategy has been implemented to reduce respondent burden and survey costs. This strategy consists of using tax data rather than survey data. Tax data can also be used to reconcile survey data.

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

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