The Ursulines founded Brescia with a founding mission similar to most women’s universities: to provide women access to higher education. In 1919, this was a right that may otherwise have been denied to them. Today, even in Canada, women’s universities still offer clear advantages.
Universities like Brescia give women a place where they are welcome and belong. Women’s universities create an environment where women do not need to be afraid of, or downplay, success.1 Numerous studies have shown that when women feel excluded in the classroom, or when they feel silenced, it has negative and sometimes long-lasting impacts on cognitive outcomes like writing and thinking skills.2,3 Women’s universities like Brescia focus on building meaningful connections with and between our students, and we commit to a student-centred approach above all else. Research indicates that when undergraduate students feel valued and competent, they are more likely to persist with their studies and graduate with their intended degree.4,5
In 2020, most Canadian undergraduate students are women.6 Despite this growing number of women learners it is often still unconventional to talk about women’s leadership or study how women learn. Brescia students see and experience women’s leadership every day, whether it’s our all-women Cabinet, our community mentors and partners, or our predominantly female faculty. Research indicates that when undergraduate students are introduced to successful women role models, they are more likely to feel they belong in their field of study and believe they will succeed in their chosen career.7 Women’s universities further empower students by encouraging self-exploration and a commitment to social justice: we know that students learn more deeply when they feel personally connected to course content.8
Universities like Brescia research how women learn and use that knowledge to influence
how we teach. It’s why we offer Brescia Bold to every incoming student: we know first-year common experiences benefit women learners.9,10 Our focus on women’s education is why we give students hands-on practice developing
our Brescia Competencies: we believe in teaching students to develop their strengths
and work with their communities in pursuit of a common goal. Research shows these
teaching practices will help students to learn more deeply and succeed in their studies. 8,11
Women’s universities also recognize that education is far more extensive than what happens inside the classroom. We have beautiful spaces, a safe campus, and amazing food because we know that women learners are only able to thrive if they feel safe and supported – body, mind, and spirit. Alumnae of women’s colleges and universities report higher satisfaction rates in the overall quality of their education.5 At Brescia, 92% of graduating students rate their overall university experience as “excellent” or “good,” significantly higher than other Canadian post-secondary institutions.12
Even in a country as privileged as Canada, we see the importance of women’s education
every day. The world still has much to learn about supporting global women’s pursuit
of higher education, particularly non-traditional and minority women students, or
those studying in traditionally male-dominated fields.13
In the spirit of our Ursuline founders, we invite women of all backgrounds and faiths to join Brescia as partners in the pursuit of knowledge and social change.