International enrolment continues to rise in Atlantic universities while overall enrolment continues to decline.

The number of international students enrolled at Atlantic Canada’s 16 universities has doubled since 2007, according to a recent report of the Association of Atlantic Universities. The data matches the overall national trend of universities seeing higher growth in international enrolments compared to domestic.

Current international enrolment in Atlantic universities stands at 13,784 compared to 6,464 in 2007. The universities witnessed an average growth of 8.2 per cent a year over the last 11 years. Growth was a little lower this year, with four per cent more international students enrolled this fall compared to a year ago.

The numbers do not include language schools, community colleges, high schools or private institutions.

chart showing growth of international students

The number of international students has doubled in Atlantic Canada. (AAU data, chart by Bala Yogesh)

Dalhousie University has the largest international cohort, with 3,554 students, with Memorial University coming in second with 2,637.

Saint Mary’s University was one of several institutions to see a decline in international enrolment. Saint Mary’s relies heavily on international enrolment, with almost a third of its students coming from outside Canada. International enrolment declined three per cent at Saint Mary’s this fall, dropping to 2,056 international students. Mount Saint Vincent University, Universite de Ste. Anne, St. Francis Xavier University, Mount Allison University, Universite de Moncton and University of New Brunswick also enrolled fewer international students this year compared to last year.

Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, president of the University of Prince Edward Island and chair of the Association of Atlantic Universities said the data is good news for the region.

“A key pillar of the Atlantic Growth Strategy is immigration and retention of New Canadians in the region,” Abd‐El-Aziz said.

Meanwhile overall enrolment continues to be on the decline, a trend that is also seen on national level. The slump is attributed to declining numbers within the 18-24 age group and has been predicted by demographers in Canada for years as birth rates decline.

The Atlantic universities recorded an overall enrolment of 73,079 which was 0.3 per cent lower compared to last year. Enrolment in Atlantic universities has been declining since 2013 and is now at the levels of the pre-recession period of 2008.

Chart showing the number of students studying fulltime in Atlantic Canada is declining

Full-time enrolment is declining in Atlantic Canada. (AAU data. Chart by Bala Yogesh)

Much of the decline is at the undergraduate level while the graduate levels have seen some increase in the numbers.

According to a survey conducted by AAU, 65 per cent of international students indicated that they would like to stay in the region. However, many reports have come out in the recent past which indicate that these international students are leaving Canada after graduation due to confusion among immigration programs.

“We are fully committed to working collaboratively with employers, communities and governments to help create a working environment that encourages international students to stay following their graduation,” Abd‐El-Aziz said.


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