The CEGEP system in Quebec

One of the most confusing elements of Quebec’s education is the CEGEP system, which stands for “College of general and vocational education” (Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel, in French), and is a concept that is unique to the province.

What’s a CEGEP and how does it work?

CEGEP (usually pronounced “See-Jep”) is a public educational institution placed between high school and university in Quebec whose purpose is to assist in continuing education. As publicly subsidized institutions, they charge little or no tuition. These types of schools provide pre-university programs and vocational career programs to younger students as well as older professionals. Although all colleges in Quebec may be commonly referred to as a CEGEP, the distinction officially applies only to public colleges, even though the function of Quebec’s private colleges is almost identical.

Typically, the CEGEPs offer their students two different courses of study. A two-year pre-university program is very similar to what is offered by a junior college in the United States. By completing this program, the student receives a Diploma of College Studies (DCS), or DEC (Diplôme d’études collégiales). Without this diploma, Quebec students cannot enter university.

Additionally, the CEGEPs also have technical or vocational programs which usually last three years and prepare their graduates for a career in a very specific field. Many of these programs will also lead to a DEC, although certain continuing education programs that focus on very specific subject matter will only earn a college certificate, and not the diploma.

For more information on continuing education in Quebec, see our article on Continuing Education in Montreal.

Like the American junior college, the CEGEP system aims to make university education more accessible to more Canadians who may not be academically or financially prepared to go straight into university after high school. But unlike in the US system, students wishing to pursue a post-secondary education are actually required to attend a CEGEP or private college before enrolling in university. For this reason, undergraduate university programs in Quebec tend to last only three years, so that the number of years needed to earn a degree ends up being same in Quebec as in the rest of Canada and North America, because students in Quebec finish secondary school at grade 11. Furthermore, students who have completed a three-year vocational program from a CEGEP are also entitled to enter a university.

Today there are 48 CEGEPs in Quebec. Only 5 of them offer instruction primarily in English.

Who is eligible to enroll in a CEGEP or a Quebec university?

To be eligible for the CEGEP system you must have attended a total of 6 years of elementary, and 5 years of secondary school.

Here are some different scenarios in which attending a CEGEP may or may not be necessary:

  • If you have attended high school abroad, and obtained a GED (General Education Diploma) – or your countries equivalent, and want to acquire a bachelors, master, or PhD degree at the university level, CEGEP is probably not for you. This is because after attending 6 years of secondary school (grades 7-12), you are eligible to enter straight university in Quebec and CEGEP would be an unnecessary step.
  • If you are relocating to Quebec from another Canadian province or US state and have complete grade 12 and/or 13, then CEGEP is not necessary to attend and you can apply directly to a university.
  • If you have completed only 5 years of high school (7-11) in your country, you are not able to go straight to university in Quebec. In this case the CEGEP system offers both vocational training degrees, and pre-university programs that will help you prepare to complete a degree at the university level – or decide what you would like to continue to study.
  • If you are a relocating to Quebec and posses a French or International Baccalaureate, you are able to enter straight into a university in the province, and skip the CEGEP system all together.

What is the R Score?

Universities in Quebec use this statistical formula to measure the academic performance of their applicants. The convoluted and not entirely uncontroversial calculus looks like this:

R score = ( (Zcol x IDGZ) + ISGZ + C ) x D , where C = D = 5

In this equation, Zcol refers to the number of standard deviations the student is above the class average. The ISGZ stands for the average high school z-score (Zsec) that the group’s students obtained on the MEES standardized exam. The IDGZ is the standard deviation of the students’ Zsec scores. The constant (C = 5) is used to reduce the possibility of a negative value in the score, and the multiplying the preceding sum by the constant (D = 5) ensures the largeness of the score. The R score is defined so that the average is 25, and most scores fall between 15 and 35.

While appearing at first glance to be something of a statistician’s wet dream, the R score has not exactly fulfilled the promise of delivering an impeccable student evaluation. On the contrary, it has proven unable to take certain considerations into account, at the same time lending too much weight to other factors.

If you’re just arriving in Quebec and need additional assistance to understand the unique laws, systems and customs of the province, you can always reach out to ARIANNE. We’ve been providing Relocations Services in Montreal since 1996, and we are always eager to help. (Unless you’re trying to calculate your R Score, in which case we might be just as clueless as you are!)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

About the Author:

Fred Hornaday took a road trip from California to Wisconsin for his first birthday party. Since then, his itch to travel has led him on numerous cross country and transcontinental adventures throughout North America and Europe. He met his wife in Germany, got married in Denmark, and honeymooned in Colombia. He knows a thing or two about international travel and relocation.

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