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While post-secondary graduates in Western Canada are positive about the school they went to (64% rate the institution an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 overall), only 28% stay connected to their post-secondary institution once they leave.

Vancouver, BC – As part of Insights West’s work with post-secondary institution clients, a recent online poll of 897 BC and Alberta adults who have graduated with a post-secondary degree or diploma used our Brand Digital Insights tool together with our Alumni Engagement Insights tool and found that most grads are not staying in touch with their institution once they graduate.

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 53% of Canadian adults 15 years of age and older in 2011 have completed a post-secondary degree or diploma of some kind. But of this large group of grads, only one-in-three (28%) in our BC poll have “stayed connected” to their school since completing their degree/diploma, with just 5% being extremely connected (38% are not very connected and 34% not at all connected).

Predictably, the longer ago the graduation, the less connected the grad is (48% of those who graduated in the past 5 years have stayed connected to some degree compared to 35% of those who graduated 5 to 10 years ago, 26% of those who graduated 10 to 20 years ago and 20% of those who graduated more than 20 years ago).

Further, it seems that even the top Canadian schools are not encouraging much more of a connection with their alumni relative to other post-secondary institutions. Among grads from the top 20 rated Canadian schools (according to MacLean’s Magazine 2013 rankings of undergraduate, comprehensive and medical doctoral universities), only 31% are extremely connected or connected, similar to the 29% of those from other colleges and universities and 25% of technical/trade school grads. Only when it comes to being not connected at all, do these top schools have a small advantage (27% of the grads of the top 20 universities are not at all connected, compared to 36% of other colleges/universities and 40% of technical/trade schools).

In keeping with this finding, when presented with a list of 12 different ways in which they could have maintained a connection, fully one-third (35%) of grads have participated in none of them. Further, the activities most often undertaken are those that arguably demonstrate the lowest degree of true engagement to the institution – 43% have kept in touch with fellow classmates and 40% have read an alumni publication. Only very small percentages (generally one-in-ten or less) have participated in any of the other 10 activities.

“These results indicate that most alumni have maintained a very weak link to their post-secondary institution,” comments Steve Mossop, president, Insights West. “These unconnected grads represent an untapped potential for institutions when it comes to the financial support they can provide back to that institution, as well as referrals and  endorsements, among other things.”

Post-secondary grads, however, are very positive about their institution for the most part. On a 10-point scale, 64% provide a rating of 8, 9 or 10, and institutions receive an average score of 7.9. A key metric in our Brand Digital Insights tool, this places post-secondary institutions in the top 5% of all of the brands tracked to date. This database shows an average of just 6.7 on that same 10-point scale and 30% rating brands 8, 9 or 10 among all brands in the normative database.

Scores for the top 20 universities are no higher (64% 8, 9 or 10 on the 10-point scale) than other colleges or universities (63%) or technical/trade schools (66%).

Similarly, 68% are very likely (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) to recommend their institution to others, and an impressive 29% give their institution top marks of 10 out of 10, being very likely to recommend. This results in an average of 8.1 on the 10-point scale.

But at the same time, the study shows that there is room for post-secondary institutions to improve in some key areas. While grads are very positive about things like the quality of the education they received (80% excellent or good), their impressions of the institutions are not that great on how well-managed the institutions are (64% excellent or good), or how well they prepare graduates for the workforce (66% excellent or good). And many grads are unable to rate their school when it comes to their environmental actions (30% don’t know) or support of the community (23%) and as a result, scores on these two attributes are on the weak side.

“Post-secondary institutions could be leveraging their overall good impressions among grads better,” Mossop comments. “And institutions do not appear to be impressing many of their alumni when it comes to a number of more general organizational behaviours,” he adds. “Community involvement and environmental stewardship activities, for example, are not getting noticed by many institutions’ grads.”


About Alumni Engagement Insights:

Insights West has developed an index that includes key metrics related to engagement and connectivity against which post-secondary institutions can measure their alumni engagement performance. It is used to help Insights West clients in assessing how their institution compares to others and allows them to understand where to focus their efforts in the most effective ways. Find out more about Alumni Engagement Insights.


About Brand Digital Insights:

This cool research tool, launched last fall by Insights West, combines corporate brand reputation, advertising recall and consumer digital interactions with a brand into a single research product. Until now, market research companies’ approaches in these areas have been isolated. For decades, researchers have been tracking traditional media campaigns (i.e., TV spots) independently, usually via traditional methods of aided recall of the 30-second spot. Brand equity and image or corporate reputation tracking metrics are also well-established, but often have poor linkages to ad tracking. On the social media side, very few marketing research companies have even studied the impact or launched media tools that evaluate the influence of Facebook, Twitter, and mobile interactions on brand. Yet with digital, mobile, and social media now forming an integral part of any marketing mix, it has become all the more critical to link the three disciplines to understand how they all work together. Marketers need to see the whole picture. Norms developed from our results offer any organization the chance to track digital engagement, brand profile, and campaign results as well as compare their success to 100+ brands in the marketplace. Learn more details about Brand Digital Insights.


About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary and has eight full-time and five part-time employees.


About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from April 29 – May 13, 2013, among 897 post-secondary graduates who are residents of BC and Alberta, aged 18+ and Your Insights panel members. is Insights West’s in-house access panel offering on-demand samples for both clients and research suppliers looking for Western Canadian populations. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for BC and Alberta for age and gender. While statistical margins of error are arguably not applicable to online panels/online studies of this nature, we have assumed that the same margins of error apply as if it were a true unweighted random probability sample with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty. View the detailed data tabulations.


For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President, Insights West

Photograph: Marcel Schoenhardt