Universities in the Maritimes have become more dependent on international students.

A new report from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission shows the number of Maritimers enrolled in the region's universities has decreased by 12 per cent over the last 10 years. However, the number of Canadian undergraduates from outside the region has increased by 28 per cent over that time and the number of international students has doubled.

international students

The number of international students attending Maritime universities has doubled over the last 10 years. (CBC)

"Maritime universities are maintaining their numbers by attracting more students from outside the Maritimes," said Mireille Duguay, the commission's chief executive officer.

Canadians from outside the Maritimes currently account for 20 per cent of undergraduates at Maritime universities while 14 per cent of undergraduates in the region are international students.

The report also shows the number of undergraduate students in New Brunswick universities has fallen 12 per cent over the last 10 years.

Duguay says demographics are a key factor in the decline as there is a smaller cohort of university-aged people.

Duguay says the decline in New Brunswick would have been even greater if it weren't for students from outside the country.

"We've got some programs or faculties where 35, 40, 50 per cent of the students enrolled in that program are international students. That's the big change," she said. "So yes, while they're currently constituting 12 per cent of the student population, a decade ago, 15 years ago, for most institutions it would have been five per cent."

While New Brunswick saw a decline in undergraduate numbers, Nova Scotia universities registered a four per cent increase over 10 years while the number of undergraduates attending the University of Prince Edward Island jumped 20 per cent.

Duguay says the region's universities have now become dependent on attracting students from outside the country.

"The international student has been the source of additional students to fill the seats that would remain empty if it were not for those international students," said Duguay.

While the number of undergraduate students in the region is stable, it's increasing at the graduate level.

The number of graduate students at Maritimes universities has increased by more than 30 per cent over the last 10 years. Duguay says that's because universities have been developing more post-graduate programs.

In 2012-13, there were 70,433 students enrolled in Maritime universities.