Postsecondary education has been a continuing focus for CMEC. In Learn Canada 2020, the framework that ministers of education are using to enhance Canada's education systems, postsecondary education is one of the four pillars of lifelong learning. The goal for postsecondary education is defined as follows: Canada must increase the number of student pursuing postsecondary education by increasing the quality and accessibility of postsecondary education.
As well, one of the specific activity areas of Learn Canada 2020 addresses postsecondary capacity, with the objective to enhance and stabilize the long-term capacity of postsecondary systems to meet the training and learning needs of all Canadians seeking higher education opportunities.
To achieve its priority and objective, CMEC concentrates on six key themes in postsecondary education:
- Capacity – In 2004, the ministers declared postsecondary capacity as one of their three key priorities. To respond to this, a postsecondary education action plan was created with objectives that focused on working with the federal government to ensure more adequate support for postsecondary education. The commitment to capacity was reinforced through Learn Canada 2020.
- Quality Assurance – Over the past few years, it has become apparent that there is a need for coherent and consistent pan-Canadian standards of quality assurance for postsecondary education in order to facilitate mobility and transferability domestically and to increase understanding of Canada's postsecondary education institutions internationally. A pan-Canadian degree level standards framework has now been endorsed by ministers of education.
- Affordability – Closely linked to CMEC's commitment to the accessibility of postsecondary education is affordability so that all students who wish to attend can afford PSE without accumulating onerous debt loads. In cooperation with the federal government, CMEC has undertaken significant studies on affordability.
- Student Financial Assistance – The provincial and territorial governments offer a combination of loans, bursaries, scholarships, grants, and other assistance to students to encourage access to and persistence in postsecondary education. CMEC has been conducting research on crucial aspects of student financial assistance.
- Credit Transfer – CMEC has agreed that a pan-Canadian system of credit transfer should be encouraged. A Working Group on Credit Transfer has been addressing the issue since 2002. A ministerial statement on credit transfer in Canada has been endorsed by all ministers of education. Annual reports which highlight jurisdictions' progress on credit transfer are also available.
- Aboriginal Postsecondary Education – As part of CMEC's focus on Aboriginal education, particular attention is being paid to students' transitions from secondary school to postsecondary education and from postsecondary studies to the workplace, as well as to financial assistance for Aboriginal students.
Information on the postsecondary education system in each jurisdiction is available at the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.