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February 15, 2018 | Alumni


Row of U of T Alumni

For nearly two centuries, University of Toronto alumni have shared their expertise and experience with the world, transforming their communities, founding innovative, successful companies, and reshaping local and national arts and culture. Today, a distinguished network of more than half a million U of T graduates is making valuable economic, social and cultural contributions around the world.

Now, thanks to the Alumni Impact Survey, we can more accurately measure the many ways our diverse and multitalented alumni contribute to society*.     

One of the most extensive studies of its kind at U of T, the Alumni Impact Survey (AIS) reached out to our alumni between April and June of 2017. Under the direction of Professor Shiri Breznitz and Professor Vivek Goel and with the assistance of an independent research firm, R. A. Malatest & Associates Ltd., the survey’s goal was to provide a clearer picture of U of T alumni’s economic, social and cultural impact.

While U of T’s analysis of the survey data is still ongoing, the University has shared some highlights from the survey, which underline the many ways in which U of T alumni drive economic growth, bring about social change, and lead the way in setting cultural and artistic trends. Further results will be published on the alumni website this spring.  

“The Alumni Impact Survey results show the strength and influence of our incredible alumni community, economically, socially and culturally,” says University of Toronto President, Meric Gertler. “Whether it’s starting successful and influential international business ventures, volunteering in boardrooms and communities, or producing creative work, these results demonstrate U of T’s increasing global impact.”

When it comes to economic influence, the Alumni Impact Survey confirms U of T is a catalyst for innovation and prosperity throughout Canada and internationally. While many know that alumni-founded companies such as Rogers Communications, Barrick Gold Corp, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. generate billions of dollars in annual revenues and employ thousands of people, the survey reveals they are not alone when it comes to U of T alumni fueling economic growth in their respective industries. Results show that one in four U of T alumni has founded a company, with 190,000 ventures across all major industries. Together, these for-profit and not-for-profit companies generate $368 billion USD in revenue with 3.7 million employees worldwide.  Meanwhile, U of T alumni actively support successful start-ups, with an estimated $6.56 billion USD invested in 50,000 ventures.

U of T alumni work primarily in knowledge-intensive sectors, in education, law, and social and government services. When it comes to employment, alumni in the labour force enjoy a 97.6 per cent employment rate, with a much higher percentage of alumni participating in the knowledge economy compared to the national average, particularly in the educational, legal, health and government sectors.

In addition to their business acumen, University of Toronto alumni are known for their social engagement. Whether it’s legendary retail magnate Leonard Simpson giving his time to mentor young entrepreneurs, or Professor Nakanyike Musisi returning to her native Uganda to raise $19.5 million for community research for her alma mater in Kampala, University of Toronto graduates lead by example, sharing their time and expertise to help others.  

The AIS results show that other alumni share this same spirit. Just over half of them volunteer in some capacity for an average of 15.4 hours a month. Meanwhile, one-fifth of U of T alumni sit on one of 172,000 boards worldwide, serving for an average of 8.5 years. Finally, 62 per cent act as mentors at their place of work, non-profit organizations, or educational institutions, including the University of Toronto.

University of Toronto graduates have been long regarded as significant contributors to academic works, professional practice and public policy, and arts and culture. From luminaries Lorne Michaels and Measha Brueggergosman, to literary giants Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, and renowned public intellectuals Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret MacMillan and Jesse Wente, U of T alumni are prolific performers, writers, intellectuals and artists. 

The survey confirms that other alumni share this creativity, revealing that more than 330,000 U of T graduates have made 760,000 individual professional, academic or artistic contributions.  This includes over 200,000 peer-reviewed articles, books or conference presentations, over 125,000 professional reports, and over 89,000 works of literary, performing or visual art for public consumption.

“Thanks to the many U of T graduates who took the time to participate in the survey, we now have a more complete picture of how alumni shape our world,” says Barbara Dick, Assistant Vice-President, Alumni Relations. “It’s clear that our alumni lead in every field, as innovators, volunteers and creators.” 

“This survey is critical,” says Professor Shiri Breznitz.  “It helps us demonstrate the extent of the University’s global impact. In the past, we measured this with data that accounted for only a small proportion of the long-term impact of a university. Now, the survey results offer us an in-depth picture of how U of T alumni influence the world.” 

Indeed, the Alumni Impact Survey will be the foundation for future academic insights and compelling personal stories that shed light on the many ways University of Toronto graduates continue to make their impact on society, whatever their background or field of interest.

* Of 545,000 total eligible U of T alumni, the survey was sent to 238,768 alumni with email addresses, and two additional groups of 10,000 were contacted by mail and telephone. Alumni could also access the online survey directly through the Alumni Impact Survey website. Response rate was approximately 8% or just over 21,000 respondents. Demographic information about alumni from University records was used for weighting and other data-validation purposes following standard statistical methods. Analyses showed respondent demographic characteristics matched the overall alumni population.  The resulting respondent sample was scaled so that estimates could be made for the University of Toronto alumni population as a whole. For data on founded companies, we made adjustments to remain conservative such as independently validating ventures with high revenues or employment numbers, and applying a scaling factor (0.992) to account for the assumption that some companies would have multiple U of T alumni founders.