Universities | Advance in program quotas

In some programs, virtually every student who successfully completes CEGEP knows that they will be accepted into the university. But for others, the fight for their place is bitter. Why are some programs so restricted? Who decides whether these limits are observed and how are these decisions made?

Martine Letarte

Martine Letarte
special collaboration

If there’s an example of a major with high odds, it’s medicine. And the decision on the number of people admitted is made by the Quebec government, which also pays for most of the expensive education of these students and will also be their employer.

“The government’s current goal is to increase the number of doctors trained, so each of Quebec’s four medical schools needs to increase the number of students admitted each year,” explains Pascale Lefrançois, vice rector for student affairs and studies at the University of Montreal ( UdeM). So if 332 students started studying medicine at the UdeM this fall, it should be 362 by 2025.

The government also decides on specific goals to be achieved for other programs such as nursing and education, but without mandating a specific number of people per university.

needs and limitations

Other courses are subject to quota regulations set by the universities themselves. “For example, we accept 96 people per year in our veterinary medicine program on our campus in Saint-Hyacinthe, but since the need is particularly great in the regions, we have just reached an agreement with the Université du Québec à Rimouski signed to train 25 more, says Pascale Lefrançois. In order to move this program, we had to get approval from the Minister for Higher Education. »

If the needs of the labor market influence the universities when creating new cohorts, the availability of material and human resources also comes into play.

This applies to the veterinary medicine course, but also to the aerospace engineering course at Concordia University. Only about a hundred people are admitted each year, and they must have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment.


Mourad Debbabi, Dean of the Gina-Cody School of Computer Engineering at Concordia University

“Moreover, the program is multidisciplinary and based largely on the principles of experiential and action learning, so we aim to keep class sizes manageable to maximize group work and interactions between professors and students,” says Mourad Debbabi, Dean of the Gina-Cody School of Computer Engineering from Concordia University.

More inclusive admissions

To admit students to quota programs, universities traditionally look at academic results. But this approach has limitations, and some universities are implementing new strategies to aim more accurately.

If we have a quota program, we want select students to complete the program. For example, we don’t want to lose 40 after the first year.

Pascale Lefrançois, Vice Rector for Student Affairs and Studies at the University of Montreal

This is a problem with some programs. “For example, many students who study nutrition are the ones who didn’t get into medicine,” she illustrates. But for a number of reasons, including the atmosphere of the courses, we want people who are really interested in this field of study and will stick with it to the end. »

For this reason, the UdeM has set up a pilot project for the admission period that has started in 2023, which integrates admission criteria for the study of nutrition and ophthalmic optics. “We will continue to look at the grades, but we will also do tests to examine different transversal skills such as communication, teamwork, empathy and we will conduct an interview to see if the motivation is genuine,” explains Pascale Lefrançois. We want to have the right students in the right programs. »

UdeM has also reserved spots and scholarships to encourage members of Black and Indigenous communities to apply to programs they are less likely to go to on the spur of the moment, such as medicine and law. “We want to have a diversity of students in our programs to represent the people of Quebec well,” adds Pascale Lefrançois.

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