From Access to Success

A core value of York’s since its inception has been to provide access to all eligible students so that no talent is left behind. We are proud of our diverse and vibrant student population, which includes many new Canadians; Black, Indigenous, and racialized students; and students who come from lower income backgrounds or are the first in their families to attend university, and which continues to grow in size as enrolment levels steadily increase.


increase in undergraduate enrolment since 2017


students from underrepresented groups


faculty who are Indigenous or racialized


people who have university degrees who would not otherwise have one because of York

Throughout the 2020–21 academic year, community members from across the University came together to ensure that despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, York’s diverse student population continued to have the supports they needed to thrive.

In addition to quickly pivoting to online learning, the University provided more than $23 million in tuition relief for international students, and raised nearly $500,000 in support of a COVID-19 Student Relief Fund to help students cover unexpected housing, rent, food, travel, and other costs due to the pandemic.

York’s libraries supported students in the transition to online learning by developing online classes, teaching and instructional videos, workshops, events, and student experiences; rapidly acquiring access to virtual collections and digitizing existing library and archive materials; and expanding access to and responsiveness of research services, leading to international recognition for demonstrating the critical role libraries played in responding to COVID-19.

And when it became clear that in-person graduation ceremonies would not be possible, the University organized 16 virtual convocation ceremonies to honour its graduating students, and shipped out more than 12,000 individual convocation boxes to help graduates celebrate the momentous occasion.

In February 2021, York announced a new postdoctoral fellowship program for Black and Indigenous scholars as part of a wider commitment to promoting justice and embracing a variety of scholarly perspectives, backgrounds, and lived experiences. 

The Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars will provide $70,000 a year for a two-year term for as many as 12 scholars over the next four years in any field of study, as well as mentorship and career development opportunities. The program is part of a larger effort to foster an inclusive research culture that values diverse voices and knowledges, and enables and supports the next generation of Indigenous and Black scholars.

In February 2021, twenty-five Black and Indigenous high school students took on paid research projects as part of the inaugural class of the Helen Carswell STEAM Program for Black and Indigenous Youth, run by Lassonde School of Engineering’s K2I Academy. The program aims to diversify representation in science, technology, engineering, and math professions.

The students in the program worked on projects in engineering, computer science, earth science, or atmospheric science, guided by undergraduate mentors and supervised by engineering faculty. All of the projects were aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and were focused on making a positive social impact.

In September 2020, York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies launched University 101, a pilot program designed to help direct-entry high school students adjust to university life, both academically and personally.

The first-year course helped students develop five key aspects of student success: capability, connectedness, purpose, resourcefulness, and an understanding of academic culture. Each of the tutorials was taught by a tenured or tenure-track faculty professor, with the assistance of upper-year peer mentors.

In March 2021, the RBC Foundation donated $1.2 million to support the work of the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community, and Diaspora, which is held by Professor Carl James.

The donation supports education initiatives for Black youth in priority areas including student success, pathways to education, and support for Black scholars.

In January 2021, York released Driving Positive Change: The York University Economic and Social Impact Report, which quantifies the significant economic and social benefits generated by the University, and tells the story about the difference it is making — for students, communities, and the world.

The report illustrates how York acts as a ladder of opportunity, providing transformative access to higher education to those who might not otherwise be able to attend university; as an engine of social progress, producing civically engaged graduates and innovative research designed to create positive change; and as a driver of economic growth, contributing to the local, provincial, and federal economies in significant and direct ways.

This year York launched the Student System Renewal Program, a four-year initiative focused on process and technology transformation that will create a seamless experience for students as they plan and manage their learning journey, and provide easier access to academic and financial supports to advance student advising and success.

A variety of improvements have been planned as part of the program, including a new Student Information System, a new customer relationship management solution, and a new mobile and portal interface.