Student Affairs and Services Competency Model

Student Affairs and Services Profession in Canada

The role of a SAS professional varies by campus, institution and province/territory.  Despite these differences, at the core of this work are professionals who support student growth and development throughout their pursuit of post-secondary studies.  Student affairs work is informed by the scholarship of student development, learning theory, and a range of discipline specific expertise. A growing number of student affairs professionals in Canada choose to pursue Master’s and Doctoral programs to prepare for and enhance their career development and contribute to a growing body of research. Student affairs professionals choose to study and research within the fields of Education, Business, Leadership, Social Sciences, Philosophy, and a wide range of other disciplines that enhance their work as educators, innovators, service providers, and university administrators. Student affairs professionals build, grow, maintain and assess programs, service models and approaches that support student success from orientation through to graduation. The functions of a SAS professional are varied and can include Aboriginal student success, academic advising, academic success, campus life, career development, counselling, disability services, international student success, faith and spirituality, financial advising, health care, health promotion and education, leadership development, recreation, recruitment and transition, registrarial services, strategic enrollment management, student housing, and a wide range of other roles that support student success and learning.

Overview of the Competency Model

Each competency is divided into three levels – core, intermediate and advanced.  Each represents the progressive levels of skills, knowledge and attitudes required across all areas of SAS in Canada.

Each level builds on the one prior, and professionals who identify to be at an intermediate or advanced level are expected to be proficient in the skills, knowledge and attitudes of the competency below their current level. Each competency reflects more than just a list of skills, knowledge and attitudes, but rather an overall spirit for the overarching competency and how it can build and grow the field.

Based on years of experience or position, professionals will need to have varied levels of expertise in competencies.  A professional can hold expertise at an intermediate or advanced level in some competencies while still holding space at a core level in other competencies.

Professionals at all levels can engage with the competencies as a starting point for their professional growth and development.  The competencies, on their own, cannot be the sole support of staff transitioning between roles and elements of the profession.  A coordinated professional development framework and plan using the competencies together can build the profession and the professional.


View/Download the CACUSS Student Affairs and Services Competency Model,

by D. Fernandez, C. Fitzgerald, P. Hambler and T. Mason-Innes (Members-Only)



The Communication competency area addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required to foster open communication, communicate effectively, produce informative, well-organized and well-written communications as needed, internally and externally, in one-on-one and group settings.

Emotional and interpersonal intelligence

The emotional intelligence and interpersonal competency area refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions in oneself; effectively respond to emotions in others; and evaluate and develop effective and productive working relationships with colleagues and students.

Intercultural Fluency

As Canadian campuses become increasingly diverse, with a focus on internationalization and increasing access for Aboriginal students, the intercultural competency addresses the self-awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes essential for effective communication, relationship building, educating, advising, supervising and community building within a diverse post-secondary setting. In this context, interculturalism is defined as “the existence and equitable interaction of diverse cultures and the possibility of generating shared cultural expressions through dialogue and mutual respect” (UNESCO, 2006, p. 17).

Indigenous cultural awareness

The Indigenous cultural awareness competency refers to knowledge, enhanced self-awareness, and skills that enable Student Affairs professionals to work respectfully and effectively with Indigenous students .

Post-secondary acumen

The post-secondary acumen competency area focuses on the understanding of the institutions’ unique organizational and governance structures, and its intersections with government, community and industry at all levels, which includes law, policy, and history. This competency area includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions relating to policy development processes used in various contexts, the application of legal constructs, compliance/policy issues, and the understanding of the history of, and contemporary issues within, post-secondary education within the Canadian context.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

Equity, diversity and inclusion is defined as both a process and a goal that includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to create learning environments that foster equitable participation of all groups and seeks to address issues of accessibility, equity and inclusion, oppression, privilege, and power. This competency involves student affairs educators who have a sense of their own agency and social responsibility that includes others, their community, and the larger global context.

Leadership, management and administration

The Leadership, management and administration competency area addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required of a leader, with or without positional authority in addition to the management and administration knowledge, skills and dispositions required to work effectively within post-secondary institutions. Leadership involves both the individual role of a leader and the leadership process of individuals working together to envision, plan, and affect change in organizations and respond to broad- based constituencies and issues. This can include working with students, student affairs colleagues, faculty, and community members.

Strategic planning, research, and assessment

The strategic planning, research and assessment competency area focuses on the ability to design, conduct, critique, and use various research and assessment methodologies and the results obtained from them, to utilize processes and their results to inform practice, and to shape the political and ethical climate surrounding strategic planning processes and uses in post-secondary education.

Student advising, support and advocacy

Student advising, support and advocacy competency area addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to providing advising and support to individuals and groups through direction, feedback, critique, referral, and guidance. Through developing advising and supporting strategies that take into account self-knowledge and the needs of others, we play critical roles in advancing the holistic well-being of ourselves, our students, and our colleagues.

Student learning and development

The student learning and development competency area addresses the concepts and principles of student development and learning theory. This includes the ability to apply theory to improve and inform student services/ affairs practice, as well as understanding teaching and training theory and practice.

Technology and Digital Engagement

The technology and digital engagement competency area focuses on the use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success as well as the improved performance of SAS professionals. Included within this area the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and colleges and universities.