International students changing makeup of Maritime university courses
Students from outside Canada are half as likely to take courses associated with bachelor of arts degree
There's been a dramatic shift in the types of courses undergraduate students are taking in Nova Scotia and the growing number of students from outside the country is contributing to the change.
Enrolment in the humanities — subjects such as English and history — is down by more than a third over the past decade. Last year, only one per cent of international students enrolled in those fields at Maritime universities.
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Dale Keefe, vice president academic at Cape Breton University — where humanities enrolment has fallen by 88 per cent over a decade — says the school has "filled that void" with international students.
The challenge for the university is the new cohort of students aren't studying the same fields.
Struggling 'to keep the lights on'
"With declining local demographics and with funding not keeping up with the necessary costs, universities had no choice but to grow international students — and to grow programs that were attractive to international students to, in some cases, keep the doors open and keep the lights on," said Keefe, shortly after returning from a recruiting trip to India.
According to numbers from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, about 29 per cent of students from the Maritimes focus in fields that typically fall under a bachelor of arts degree, while about 15 per cent of international students do.
Meanwhile, the number of students from outside the country studying in the region has increased 71 per cent in the last decade — a sharp contrast from the declining number of students from the Maritimes.
The number of students from Nova Scotia is down 18.5 per cent over the same period.
Typically, international students pay much higher tuition than Canadian students as well.
Keefe says it's been a challenge for his school keep up with the demand for business, hospitality, tourism, nursing, engineering and technology courses.
Marketing arts programs internationally
Documents obtained by CBC News through access to information requests show some schools have taken steps to strengthen the links between international students and arts courses.
Saint Mary's, Cape Breton and Acadia universities have all been in discussions with Beijing Normal University in China on whether shared programming at the schools "might result in increased revenues, or savings."
The documents also say Saint Mary's University has an agreement with Beijing Normal University to bring a cohort of students to the province next year to study social sciences.
Brook Taylor, the dean of arts and sciences at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, says programs such as human nutrition and business have "grown significantly" because of international students and the school has started exploring how to boost the numbers of international students in arts courses as well.
International students drawn to business, engineering
According the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, 39 per cent of international students at the region's universities studied business management and public administration in the 2014-2015 school year.
Engineering and architecture-related programs were the second most popular, attracting 15 per cent of international students. Social and behavioural sciences and law drew about nine per cent of students from outside the country.