International student enrolment still strong at UPEI, despite Canadian border closure

Normally more than a quarter of all UPEI's students are international students, and the university typically welcomes more than 200 new, first-year international students each fall, but now most of those students will be taking their courses from UPEI online, from their home countries.

Enhanced student orientation planned for new international students

A group of international students from China and Japan enjoy UPEI campus life, pre-pandemic. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Normally more than a quarter of UPEI's students are international, and the university typically welcomes more than 200 new, first-year international students each fall.

But now most of them will be taking their courses from UPEI online, from their home countries, the university says. 

With COVID-19 restrictions, most students from outside Canada simply will not be permitted into P.E.I. 

"If students got their visas before March 18, it's possible for them to travel. There are quite a few conditions attached to that," said Jerry Wang, director of recruitment at UPEI's international student office. Most students did not get their visas that early, however. 

International students in their second, third and fourth years are able to continue their studies without interruption, he said. 

New international student enrolment so far has been strong, Wang said.

Team of student assistants on standby

UPEI has said course instruction will be primarily online for the fall semester, with a few exceptions including nursing and veterinary medicine, along with some science labs, allowing for in-person instruction.

Jerry Wang, the director of the international student services office at UPEI, says the university had more than 1,400 international students during the winter 2020 term. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Even though some course components may be taught in-person, UPEI professors, deans and administration are working with students to arrange to take them online, Wang said. 

"They have been working very closely to make a plan for students, not only returning students but with new students in mind — also with the learning methodology differences for new students," Wang said. 

UPEI is planning a longer orientation period for new international students, he said, and will have a team of UPEI student assistants who will act as ambassadors to share their experiences of living and studying at the university, to ease the process.

"There will be some challenges, but I think we have done a lot of work to make sure our students will have minimum interruptions or challenges," Wang said. 

The university and student union recently announced fees would be reduced, starting with the fall semester, for students who aren't able to be on campus. 

Wang commended the federal government for saying it will not discriminate against students who are taking courses online but wish to apply for a post-graduate work permit in Canada. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.


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