Student Demographic Data Project

The UBC Student Demographic Project aims to enhance the collection of student demographic data and enable the university to better understand student experiences, support student inclusion and success, and assess progress of equity, diversity and inclusion priorities.

Overview

The project aims to provide the university and its community with more inclusive, demographically representative data on the student body. These data will better inform UBC’s planning, reporting, and policy making with considerations of the distinct contexts and lived experiences of all students. This will contribute to creating a more inclusive and robust campus experience for all members of the UBC community.

UBC’s Student Demographic Data Project aligns with the provincial mandate to tackle systemic discrimination. The project will contribute to the anti-racism data legislation objective of better identifying the gaps and barriers to achieve more equitable and inclusive communities.

This project is a joint initiative of the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO), Enrolment Services, Planning and Institutional Research (PAIR), and Enterprise Data Governance.

Principles

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights are central to the purpose of disaggregated student demographic data collection and use in support of UBC’s commitment to redressing racism and discrimination within our community.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are core UBC Values. The collection of student demographic data at UBC will be used to inform positive social and systemic change to address gaps and barriers to operations, systems, culture and organizational structures that directly affect the campus experience for diverse students. Data collection will support UBC’s goals to create a more equitable university community in alignment with UBC’s Strategic Plan, the Inclusion Action Plan, the Indigenous Strategic Plan, and the recommendations made by the President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (launched April 22, 2022). In addition, we need to be compliant with Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and BC’s Human Rights Code as well as in alignment with BC’s anti-racism data legislation regarding data collection processes and their purposes, and UBC’s commitment to the Scarborough Charter. This data collection will contribute to the anti-racism data legislation objective of better identifying the gaps and barriers to achieve more equitable and inclusive communities and to the Accessible British Columbia Act objective of making a more accessible government and organizations.

A Caring Approach will ensure that the purpose and process of student demographic data collection at UBC are well-defined and articulated, each and every time, to ensure that these data cannot be used to stigmatize, report from a place of deficit, and/or cause harm.

In September 2020, BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner released a report, Disaggregated Demographic Data Collection in BC: The Grandmother perspective. The report placed great importance on the relationship-based approach of a grandmother, which comes from a place of caring, support, and building meaning together. This perspective put forward by Gwen Phillips of the Ktunaxa Nation differs from a top-down or “Big Brother” approach. The goal is for students to be able to self-identify appropriately and provide the space for them to see themselves how they would wish to be able to do so, including the flexibility to change their data to represent fluid identities. It requires the interpretation of data to be considerate of the complexity of understanding identities, intersectional identities and more appropriately representing equity-deserving communities. This also means being clear with students on why UBC is collecting this information and what we are doing with it to make social and significant systematic change. All processes of disaggregated data collection, analysis, reporting, and usage should be developed in engagement with equity-deserving communities that will have a unique perspective and contribution to the process.

Privacy and Security Protection ensures appropriate security of personal and community data, including protection against risks such as loss or unauthorized or unlawful access, destruction or damage, use, modification, or disclosure.

The collection process of disaggregated student data should take into consideration how to protect the privacy of individuals and communities, complying with current and new legislations and policies in BC. The Grandmother’s perspective report cautioned that technological advances can more readily identify de-identified data and therefore suggested that we treat all data as confidential and sensitive. We currently have a strong privacy and information security model at UBC, on security regarding data protection and access of these data. In addition, we will follow the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). The student demographic data will be stored and maintained with a robust UBC security system, specified access roles, and privacy safeguards in place.

Centralized Data Standards & Governance underscores the value of these data as an institutional asset and the importance of a UBC centralized approach to the development of data standards and governance.

Through the data governance program at UBC, we will establish a set of data standards based on recommendations by the student demographic data project sponsors, the advisory committee members, and broad engagement with student communities. Through the data governance program, we will be able to: a) maintain a consistent definition of the data, its response options, and its business rules; b) increase the consistency, availability, usability, and quality of internal student data; c) eliminate redundant or conflicting business processes and practices; and d) provide an implementation framework that enables sustainable execution across multiple data domains. We also need to keep in mind the data reporting requirements in accordance to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training reporting requirements (such as the recommendation from the Ministry on how to collect and report on student gender).

Transparency of Data Collection Processes to ensure that all UBC students, and especially equity-deserving communities, are engaged in the processes of their data collection, analysis, and reporting.

UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan specifies the importance of collecting institutional equity data with appropriate privacy safeguards to enable regular systematic analyses and reporting of these data and equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. The grandmother’s perspective report highlighted the importance of a clearly defined and stated purpose as well as an appropriate process for collecting disaggregated data. The data collection efforts at UBC will be more likely to succeed if they consider the concerns students have around sharing personal information and work to build trust by clearly articulating why these data are being collected and what will they be used for. Any reporting and disaggregated data should also be shared with relevant equity-deserving communities and results socialized and validated with community leaders, experts, and organizations to ensure that reports support positive outcomes and do not perpetuate stigmas, harm, or negative outcomes in accordance with our principles of a Caring Approach and Shared Responsibility.

Shared Responsibility for Action for structural and social change at UBC, even if the barriers that affect equity-deserving members do not personally disadvantage oneself.

The implementation of these data standards and the governance around them will require the support of the UBC-wide community. We need to have deep understanding of how we should be using these data and be well aware of intended as well as unintended consequences regarding the use of these data. This implies a commitment to train and educate those with access to these data in order to ensure shared accountability throughout UBC. This would be in alignment with these guiding principles while reflecting an ongoing commitment to acknowledgement, empathy, and respect for the backgrounds, intersectionalities, and complexities of UBC’s diverse community. The collection of these disaggregated data brings with it a responsibility for data-informed action and concrete outcomes.

Indigenous Data Stewardship is essential to represent the distinct needs of Indigenous data governance and the necessary guidance in how Indigenous data are collected, protected, interpreted, and shared.

Although anti-discrimination and anti-racism efforts are a shared responsibility of all members of the UBC-wide community, there are unique considerations to how Indigenous data are managed. In particular, ensuring that Indigenous communities have a say in how their data are collected, shared, and interpreted. One possible approach is to follow the model provided by the First Nations Information Governance Centre through the First Nations principles of OCAP (ownership, control, access, and possession). The OCAP principles establish that First Nations should have control over data collection processes that affect them and that they own and control how these data are used. Altogether, our Indigenous Data Governance principle advocates for Indigenous data collection in a way that is beneficial for Indigenous Peoples collective interests.

Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of the demographic data project is to develop clear definitions and standards for collecting student data. These definitions and standards will become part of the UBC Data Governance Program to be applied by the University consistently and comprehensively.

Equity, diversity and inclusion are high priorities for UBC, yet we currently have a shortage of demographic data collected about students to be able to measure and understand our progress toward these priorities.

In alignment with UBC’s commitments to inclusive excellence and anti-racism and in support of numerous strategic initiatives aiming to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at UBC, the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO), Enrolment Services, Planning and Institutional Research (PAIR), and Enterprise Data Governance are working with key stakeholders on a centralized demographic data collection strategy for students.

The Student Demographic Data Project supports the priorities of UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan:

  • Recruitment, retention and success
  • Systems Change
  • Capacity Building
  • Learning, research and engagement
  • Accountability

The rationale for this project stems from the recommendations in the call made by BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner for new legislation governing disaggregated demographic data collection to address systemic discrimination in BC. (The Anti-Discrimination Data Act). The lead recommendation in the Disaggregated Demographic data collection in British Columbia: The Grandmother Perspective report published in September of 2020 was to collect data in service of systemic equity, with the meaningful involvement of equity-deserving and underrepresented communities.

Disaggregated data are data that have been broken down by detailed sub-categories, for example by marginalised group, gender, region or level of education. Disaggregated data can reveal deprivations and inequalities that may not be fully reflected in aggregated data (Right to Education, 2022). (Right to Education, 2022).

UBC recognizes the significant value of cultural, religious, and other kinds of diversity. As a university, we are continually working towards building a more inclusive and equitable environment. Our active respect for diversity is reflected in our efforts to capture demographic data to better inform equity and inclusion initiatives, but more can be done to ensure the academic and administrative systems of UBC are inclusive.

Self-identifying provides more inclusive and demographically representative information, which is essential to move the above priorities forward. These levels of disaggregated data will better inform UBC’s planning, reporting, and policy making with considerations of the distinct contexts and lived experiences of all students. This will contribute to creating a more inclusive and robust campus experience for all members of the UBC community.

The quality of disaggregated data – and of the initiatives that might be informed by said data - is in part related to the availability of self-reported data. Thus, self-identifying provides a clearer picture of where to focus equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts and provides evidence and rationale needed to address any disadvantages or discriminations faced by members of equity-deserving groups.

For example, to provide adequate accommodation and to offer services and facilities in an inclusive and non-discriminatory way (as per Policy No.: LR7: Disability Accommodation Policy), UBC needs adequate information about the needs of students with disabilities.

UBC’s Student Demographic Data Project aligns with the provincial mandate to tackle systemic discrimination. The project will contribute to the anti-racism data legislation objective of better identifying the gaps and barriers to achieve more equitable and inclusive communities.

Do you currently collect student data?

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are high priorities for UBC, yet, we have a shortage of demographic data (e.g., racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.) about students to be able to measure and understand our progress toward these EDI priorities. Similarly, and more broadly, there are gaps in our understanding of UBC’s data ecosystem (e.g., data collected about teaching and learning experiences, data collected on application or program evaluation forms, etc.).

To better understand what data are being collected, how, when, from whom and for what purpose, as well as to understand how data are currently managed, stored and accessed at UBC, we are asking all those engaged in these efforts to complete a short survey.

Learn more and complete the survey

Contact

If you have questions or would like to provide feedback about this project, please email the Student Demographic Data Project team at student.demographic@ubc.ca.