New student demographic data heralds a more equitable, diverse and inclusive U of A

The university’s first Student Demographic Diversity Census to provide baseline for EDI goals

EDMONTON — New demographic data from a University of Alberta census is providing a better understanding of the current student landscape, and identifying opportunities for a more inclusive culture on U of A campuses.

In November 2021, the U of A launched its first Student Demographic Diversity Census, asking students about their gender identities, sexual orientations, belief systems, spoken languages, relationship statuses, economic circumstances, and more. The information gathered will help provide a measurable baseline as the university works towards the goals laid out in its Strategic Plan for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI).

For example, respondents were asked if they are first generation students. More than one-third of students indicated they are the first in their family to attend university. With this information, the U of A can create a more equitable and inclusive environment for them, particularly during orientation activities.

Just over 43 percent of respondents also identified as a member of a visible minority. Nearly five percent identify as Indigenous.

The university collects some demographic data through its administrative systems, such as gender, international status and Indigenous status, but the census offers a much more complete picture of the student body.

For example, according to the U of A’s administrative database the student population is recorded as being 54.7 percent female and 45.3 percent male. In response to the census, students self-identified as 59.1 percent women, 38.3 percent men, 3.0 percent non-binary, 0.9 percent transgender, and 0.2 percent Two-Spirit, while 0.7 percent self-identified as another gender identity. It should be noted that students could select multiple answers.

Now that the university knows — beyond anecdotal evidence — that many of its students identify outside the gender binary, Carrie Smith, Vice-Provost (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) says they have an opportunity to take action.

“It suggests that our systems do not always align with lived experience and offers us clear evidence for making cross-institutional, data-informed changes,” Smith says.

The survey results tie into a project already afoot at the U of A to address the student experience. Consultations are underway with students across campus for the Student Experience Action Plan, expected to launch at the start of the 2023-2024 academic year.

The U of A’s survey had a strong response rate at 44.7 per cent. The next Student Demographic Census will take place later this year.

To speak with Carrie Smith about making the U of A a more inclusive space for all students, or to learn more about the census results, please contact: Sarah Vernon | University of Alberta communications associate |