Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS)

Detailed information for 2008/2009





Record number:


The Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS) is a national survey that enables Statistics Canada to provide detailed information on enrolments and graduates of Canadian public postsecondary institutions in order to meet policy and planning needs in the field of postsecondary education.

Data release - July 14, 2010 (University enrolment and qualifications); March 10, 2011 (College enrolment and graduates)


The Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS) is a national survey that enables Statistics Canada to provide detailed information on enrolments and graduates of Canadian public postsecondary institutions in order to meet policy and planning needs in the field of postsecondary education.

In the year 2001, it began to replace the University Student Information System (USIS - record number 3124), the Community College Student Information System (CCSIS - record number 3122) and the Trade/Vocational Enrolment Survey (TVOC - record number 3142) with a single survey offering common variables for all levels of postsecondary education. PSIS captures annually, enrolment and graduate information from all Canadian public postsecondary institutions.

PSIS collects information pertaining to the programs and courses offered at an institution, as well as information regarding the students themselves and the program(s) and course(s) in which they were registered, or from which they have graduated. PSIS is also designed to collect continuing education data. This information is available from the PSIS Cross-sectional Files.

Historical enrolment and graduate data from previous surveys have been converted using PSIS variable definitions and code sets to maintain the historical continuity of the statistical series.

PSIS was developed under the aegis of the Canadian Education Statistics Council. The Council is a joint body of Statistics Canada and provincial and territorial deputy ministers responsible for education. The Chief Statistician of Canada and a Deputy Minister chair it jointly. The individual departments act collectively through the Council of Ministers of Education (Canada). The development of PSIS was also made in co-operation with various national organizations and government departments. As well, PSIS is strongly supported by various federal and provincial departments with an interest in education, and by international bodies that rely on Statistics Canada for educational data.

Canada's place in the global economy depends to a high degree upon the knowledge and skills of its citizens. The postsecondary education system is an important vehicle for delivering the required knowledge and skills. For Canada to compete in the new economy, informed program choices by students and effective marshalling of education resources are essential. For policy makers and planners, PSIS plays an important role in fulfilling the student information mandate.

Reference period: The start date for the PSIS report is the day after the end of the institution's previous winter term, which is usually a date in April, May or June. The reference period is one year from this start date.


  • Educational attainment
  • Education, training and learning
  • Fields of study

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The frame used is the list of Canadian public postsecondary institutions (universities, community colleges and trade and vocational training centres) compiled by the Centre for Education Statistics of Statistics Canada. The collection unit is the Canadian postsecondary institution. Each institution sends data pertaining to their programs and their students.

Instrument design

The content of the current record layout was developed in close cooperation with provincial education ministries, federal government departments, various national organizations and professional associations. Extensive consultations were done both at the national and provincial levels.

The current record layout content is aimed at addressing the main data requirements of those various data users for purposes such as: planning, policy making and labour force supply analysis. Consultations were also done with the personnel of the different postsecondary institutions of each province and territory across Canada to ensure that the data elements included were or potentially would be available from their administrative database.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore, no sampling is done.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

This survey collects administrative data on students enrolled in Canadian public postsecondary institutions.

The initial contact consists of a written data request via e-mail. Subsequent contacts are made via telephone, e-mail and possibly via an on-site visit with the respondent(s) at the institution(s).

The collection method used is electronic. It consists of institutions and coordinating bodies sending electronic flat files compiled and validated by Statistics Canada's Data Verification System (DVS). The DVS is an application that is used to verify data and identify problems within an institution's input files before they are sent to Statistics Canada.

The files are then returned to Statistics Canada via the Electronic File Transfer (EFT) facility. This software encrypts the files and sends them to a specified Internet address (to ensure that there is no error in destination).

Error detection

Error detection is done at the responding institution or coordinating body and at Statistics Canada at the macro and micro level.

At the responding institution or coordinating body, edits are run on input flat files to correct data type, code set and coherence errors using the Data Verification System (DVS). The DVS is an application that is used to verify data and identify problems within an institution's input files before they are sent to Statistics Canada.

At Statistics Canada, error detection covering data type, code set validity, outlier and coherence between data elements are also performed.


PSIS uses methodologies, systems, applications, tools and processing procedures allowing manual and automated editing and imputation of microdata. Historical, deterministic, donor or a minimum change "cold deck" imputation method is used.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Quality evaluation

The Postsecondary Student Information System team uses a multi-stage process to evaluate data quality, which includes the following:

1) checking for internal consistencies at each stage of data processing, e.g., executing frequency tables and examining outliers for certain data elements;

2) comparing the most recent data year with past data years to detect any unusual or unexpected changes. Comparisons of tabulated data are made with the postsecondary education institution and student data published by the institution, provinces and territories, where available;

3) producing electronic extracts containing published variables and a set of verification tables which consist of basic tabulations for the majority of variables in the database by institution, province or territory;

4) sending the corresponding electronic extracts and certification tables to each responding institution or coordinating body for their review and approval to ensure that Statistics Canada and their registry obtain the same (or similar) results;

5) comparing trends with other data sources;

6) applying quality control procedures to the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) variable. These procedures have been put in place to ensure both accuracy and consistency in the coding of CIP across institutions and jurisdictions.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any data which would divulge information obtained under the Statistics Act that relates to any identifiable person, business or organization without the prior knowledge or the consent in writing of that person, business or organization. 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.

PSIS produces a wide range of outputs that contain estimates for various student or postsecondary institution characteristics. Results are published for institutions from which we have received written consent.

For data covering the student population, the following rules are applied: only aggregate data are released and no microdata file is available. For tabular data, cells are random rounded to base 3.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

Phased implementation of PSIS started in the year 2000. For the 2008/2009 collection year, PSIS covered 80% of public institutions

The target population of PSIS is very stable and the survey is mandatory, therefore minimizing undercoverage. The maintenance of close relations with respondents is also an important factor in minimizing non-response. However, there is an exception, enrolments since 2005/2006 and qualifications awarded since 2005 are not available for University of Regina. Moreover, for Quebec institutions, qualifications awarded do not include micro programs and attestations.

Other important accuracy factors to consider are the quality control measures implemented in PSIS such as the error detection that is completed at both the responding institution (or coordinating body) and at Statistics Canada (at the macro and micro level), the certification tables to be approved by each responding institution (or coordinating body), and the internal data audits.

Some variables have a high rate of non-response, such as mother tongue, activity limitations, aboriginal person or member of a visible minority and previous education.


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