May 13, 2013

Today the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) released its annual enrolment digest. It showed that in the past ten years the number of Nova Scotia students at Nova Scotia universities has fallen 10.4% while International enrolment has risen 150%.

The news comes as little surprise to Students Nova Scotia. In a report it will release this Thursday, StudentsNS predicts that Nova Scotia universities will have to double their international enrolment over the next twenty years to simply maintain current enrolment totals, so that international students come to represent 28% of the student population in 2030-31.

“With our local and national demographic pressures, universities can no longer bank on major increases in enrolment to expand their budgets,” said Jonathan Williams, StudentsNS Executive Director. “Nova Scotia universities are already heavily reliant on students from overseas to counteract shrinking local and Canadian cohorts.”

Maritime universities’ out-of-province Canadian student numbers increased 40% over ten years, but StudentsNS predicts that the demographic aging trends affecting Nova Scotia are reaching the rest of Canada and will end this growth. Only international student populations are expected to continue growing significantly.

For StudentsNS, the growth in international student enrolment can be a positive change for our universities and most importantly the whole province. Supporting these students, integrating them, and encouraging them to settle here will require a comprehensive strategy though.

“Considering international students’ real and potential economic and cultural contributions and Nova Scotia’s demographics, these students represent a critical opportunity,” said Williams; “but we have to invest smartly in supporting their success and possible settlement.”

Over the coming month, StudentsNS is releasing multiple reports discussing these issues. Thursday’s report explores university system funding from student fees and the Province, recommending changes to enhance affordability, system stability and quality. A second report on international student financing and services will be released in two parts at the end of May and beginning of June.