Cape Breton University in Canada plans to reduce its overall enrolment to 7,000 students within four years, after experiencing struggles with a shortage of classroom space and housing for international students.
The school currently has 9,100 students – with more than three-quarters coming from overseas. The vast majority of these students are from India.
According to data from the Atlantic Association of Universities, enrolment at CBU jumped 57.4% this year compared to 2022.
University president David Dingwall said there was pent-up demand during the pandemic as some international students postponed coming to Canada for a year.
In its first ever Strategic Enrolment Plan, CBU has set a target of increasing domestic enrolment to 40% of the total by 2027.
However, this may prove challenging due to the limited number of young people in the region. Domestic enrolment has increased by eight percent in the past year, the university said.
In a statement, Dingwall acknowledged the challenge of recruiting Canadian students, but vowed to press forward.
“The current increase is a positive sign but we know we must stay strategically focused over the next several years to achieve our goals,” he said.
CBU also hopes to diversify international enrolment by country of origin, although it hasn’t set any targets yet. In its general five-year strategic plan set out in 2019, the school pledged to recruit students from a wider range of countries; Indian students, however, still account for most of the international enrolment.
Colleges and universities across Canada are well aware of the risks of relying on a single overseas country to fill their classrooms.
Canada’s relations with India took a hit in recent weeks when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of “potential involvement” in the killing of a Sikh separatist in suburban Vancouver.
So far, the dispute has not had a big impact on the number of Indian students going to the country.
Cape Breton University had just 3,500 students five years ago – the rapid enrolment expansion has created problems around housing, classroom space and the availability of part-time jobs for international students.
“Cape Breton continues to invest in programs, services and infrastructure”
In early 2023, it was found that the school was forced to lease space in a downtown cinema to hold some classes .
Indian students rely on local employment to be able to pay their tuition and living expenses, but there are few jobs available; the university is working to address the housing issue by building a new residence and renovating another building.
“Cape Breton continues to invest in programs, services and infrastructure to help manage the pressures that come with welcoming a record number of students,” Dingwall said.
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