A medical student smiling

Why a Women's Only University

The World Still Needs Women’s Universities

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.

Students huddled together


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  

Student doing a presentation


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

Students in a classroom

Women’s Education

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

Students with arms around eachother

The Work Isn’t Done – We Need Your Voice

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.


(1) Renn, K. A. (2012). Roles of women’s higher education institutions in international contexts. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 64(2), 177–191. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-011-9486-z
(2) Whitt, E. J., Nora, A., Edison, M. I., Terenzini, P. T., & Pascarella, E. T. (1999). Women’s perceptions of a “chilly climate” and cognitive outcomes in college: Additional evidence. Journal of College Student Development; Baltimore, 40(2), 163.
(3) Janz, T. A., & Pyke, S. W. (2000). A scale to assess student perceptions of academic climates. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 30(1), 89–122.
(4) Wise, J. (2017). Student success in higher education: an analysis of the effects of support and community [Ph.D., Baylor University]. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1904950851/abstract/CAAC9438792405BPQ/1
(5) Hardwick Day, J. & Lennon, S. (2012). What matters in college after college: a comparative alumnae research study. Report. https://www.womenscolleges.org/sites/default/files/report/files/main/2012hardwickdaycomparative
(6) Statistics Canada. 2020. Table 37-10-0011-01. Postsecondary enrolments, by field of study, registration status, program type, credential type and gender. https://doi.org/10.25318/3710001101-eng
(7) Rosenthal, L., Levy, S. R., London, B., Lobel, M., & Bazile, C. (2013). In pursuit of the MD: the impact of role models, identity compatibility, and belonging among undergraduate women. Sex Roles, 68(7), 464–473. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0257-9
(8) Crawley, S. L., Curry, W. H., Dumoise-Sands, J., Tanner, C., & Wyker, C. (2008). Full-contact pedagogy: lecturing with questions and student-centered assignments as methods for inciting self-reflexivity for faculty and students. Feminist Teacher, 19(1), 13–30.
(9) Kilgo, C. A., Sheets, J. K. E., & Pascarella, E. T. (2015). The link between high-impact practices and student learning: Some longitudinal evidence. Higher Education, 69(4), 509–525. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-014-9788-z
(10) Jenkins-Guarnieri, M. A., Horne, M. M., Wallis, A. L., Rings, J. A., & Vaughan, A. L. (2015). Quantitative evaluation of a first year seminar program: relationships to persistence and academic success. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 16(4), 593–606. https://doi.org/10.2190/CS.16.4.f
(11) Stake, J. E., & Hoffmann, F. L. (2000). Putting feminist pedagogy to the test: the experience of women’s studies from student and teacher perspectives. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24(1), 30–38. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb01019.x
(12) National Survey of Student Engagement. (2019). NSSE 2019 Snapshot: Brescia University College, 3-4.
(13) Booker, K. (2016). Connection and commitment: How sense of belonging and classroom community influence degree persistence for African American undergraduate women. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 28(2), 218–229.