International students driving enrolment increases at Atlantic universities

Enrolment for full-time undergraduate and graduate programs at universities in Atlantic Canada is up.

'We had an astounding 20 per cent year-over-year increase in international students'

Enrolment at Cape Breton University is up 38 per cent. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Enrolment for full-time undergraduate and graduate programs at universities in Atlantic Canada is up.

Enrolment grew by four per cent for the 2019-2020 academic year, according to the Association of Atlantic Universities preliminary survey of 16 universities in the region.

There are 77,778 full-time undergraduate and graduate students at the universities in the survey.

Much of the growth can be attributed to an increase in international students. There are 19,037 in the region.

"We had an astounding 20 per cent year-over-year increase in international students," said Peter Halpin, executive director of the association.

"That's nearly 3,200 more international students this year than last year."

Halpin said all universities in the region have worked to recruit both domestic and international students and it is paying off.

"We've contended for some time that the best source of new immigrants to Atlantic Canada is the growing pool of international students studying at our universities," he said.

Between 65 and 75 per cent of international students surveyed have expressed an interest to stay in Atlantic Canada following graduation, Halpin said.

The association saw an increase in Nova Scotia, where enrolment went up more than 5.8 per cent, led by a 38 per cent increase in enrolment at Cape Breton University.

University enrolment in New Brunswick was essentially static, only going up 0.8 per cent. University of New Brunswick's enrolment went down just over one per cent.

Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador saw a 2.7 per cent increase.

'Excited' about growth

Enrolment at the University of Prince Edward Island, the only university in the province, was up 5.8 per cent.

"We increased our enrolment last year and we were able to do it again this year,"  said Katherine Gottschall-Pass, interim vice-president of academic and research at UPEI.

Gottschall-Pass said she is "excited" about the growth and it is evidence recruitment efforts are paying off.

UPEI's enrolment grew by 5.8 per cent this year. (Nicole Williams/CBC News)

International students are also leading the increased enrolment on P.E.I.

The number of full-time visa students studying at UPEI has increased over the last year by over 18 per cent, Gottschall-Pass said.

The increasing numbers at UPEI or any university means the institutions are more sustainable, she said.

"We are able to offer more and better programs and that is a good thing for the Island and for the economy as well," Gotschall-Pass said.

More P.E.I. news

With files from John Robertson


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