Nfld. & Labrador

Spike in international student enrolment shows MUN's global appeal, says provost

Despite a sharp tuition increase, Memorial University's international cohort has grown this fall, and students say the increasingly diverse campus is enhancing their university experience.

10% international student growth in 2021, despite tuition rise on horizon

Nearly 4,000 international students are enrolled at Memorial University. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Despite a sharp tuition increase on the horizon, Memorial University's international cohort has grown this fall — but it's not clear how new tuition rates will affect enrolment in years to come.

This year's rise in international student enrolment is part of a growing trend at universities across Canada, said provost and vice-president Florentine Strzelczyk.

"We've been able to garner more international students or attract them here to Canada as a place that has high quality education," she said.

There are now nearly 4,000 international students enrolled at MUN, and that number keeps growing. International student enrolment is up by 360, or about 10 per cent, compared with the fall of 2020.

Strzelczyk said overall growth in enrolment is relatively small ⁠— just over one per cent ⁠— but the increase in international students shows that MUN has become an attractive university for students from around the world.

"When you've been across campus, you see the hustling and bustling of students on campus, and that diversity makes our campus community great," she said.

Florentine Strzelczyk says the increase in international student enrolment is part of a growing trend across the country. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Strzelczyk said the university is also seeing a slight decrease in enrolment of students from Newfoundland and Labrador, and a slight uptick in enrolment of students from across Canada.

"There is a bit of a demographic shift," she said. 

Swapnali Vijay Kadam, a graduate student who recently arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador from India, said her time at MUN so far has been "like a dream."

She said there are students from Bangladesh, China and Pakistan in her class, and she was surprised by the diversity in culture and ethnicity.

Swapnali Vijay Kadam says her experience at MUN has been positive so far. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"I'm feeling it's my home far away from home," she said.

Madisen Murphy, a third-year kinesiology student, said the university community is accepting and inclusive.

"I think that's probably a big reason why so many people have come here," she said.

Madisen Murphy says insight from a range of experiences allows the university community to grow. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Murphy said the opportunity to learn about a range of experiences has allowed her to grow and develop as a person.

"It's really good to have insight from a lot of different perspectives coming in and help us grow as a community together," she said. 

Growth may be short-lived

In June, MUN announced that international undergraduate tuition would increase from $1,146 per course to $2,000 per course for students enrolling in the fall of 2022.

It also doubled tuition for incoming domestic students, raising fees to $6,000 per year for full-time undergraduates starting next year.

Tuition for existing domestic and international students will also increase each year by four per cent.

Strzelczyk said she doesn't believe MUN will see a significant decline in international student enrolment due to the tuition increase, but when the changes were announced in June, university president Vianne Timmons said she expected a 20 per cent drop in student enrolment.

Ujjwal Singla, a third-year computer science and math student from India, said he's relieved he began his studies before the tuition increase for new students kicked in. 

He said he was attracted to MUN because of the low tuition fees combined with high-quality education. Now Singla said he's grown to love St John's.

Ujjwal Singla said he was originally attracted to Memorial University because of low fees, but now plans to stay in the province. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"I'll stay here for all my life," he said. "I love the city. The people are really good. I have a really good friend circle over here. I love them."

Singla believes the rise in tuition may limit the number of international students who choose to come to MUN in the future.

"The fees is one of the main factors that I came here and a lot of students came here," he said. "But now as the fees are increased, I don't think this number will be the same in coming semesters."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts

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