SUMMERSIDE – A report released last month by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Committee shows that, while the overall number of university students in the region remains stable, the make-up of the student population continues to change.
U.P.E.I. Official enrollment and course registrations for Winter 2014 (as of March 1, 2014) and as compared to Winter 2013 (as of March 1, 2013)
1. Total headcount: 4,219 (- 2.9% or 126 fewer students). Full-time: 3,740 (+0.05% or 2 more students); Part-time: 479 (-21%, largely due to changes in B’ED part-time student count). 2. Total undergraduates in the Arts, Business, Science, Nursing and unclassified: 3,447 (- 2.4% or 83 fewer students). Faculty of Science: +4.4%, Nursing: 0%, Business: -0.4%, Arts: -11%.
3. Total graduate students: 349 (+19.5% from 292 last year or 57 more students). Most of the growth is from M’Ed (120 vs. 59).
4. International students: 643 (+15% from last year or 84 more students), representing 58 countries/regions and accounting for 15.2% of total student body. The growth is largely due to undergraduate programs on main campus (not AVC).
5. Total course registrations: 16,695 (-2.6% or 452 fewer registrations, all of which are in undergraduate level). Faculty of Science, AVC, and School of Nursing enjoyed growth from last year while other Faculties/Schools witnessed declines.
Over the last decade, the number of Maritimers enrolled in the region’s universities decreased by 12 per cent. Over that same period, the number of Canadians from outside the Maritimes has increased by 28 per cent and the number of international students has doubled.
“The main reason (for the change) is that we’re faced with a demographic decline,” said Mireille Duguay, commission CEO. “We’re tracking demand and we’re seeing a softening of that demand.”
She said colleges expanding their programs might be another option to students going on to post secondary education other than at universities.
“Fifteen years ago, if you were post secondary bound in this region it essentially meant you were going to university,” Duguay said. “Historically, we’ve enjoyed a high participation rate. So, we’re seeing a little bit of a softening of the demand but the biggest issue is demographic decline.”
She said the situation poses a challenge for universities and U.P.E.I. has adapted well.
“I think they’ve done very well across the board. U.P.E.I. has done a great job over the last decade,” Duguay said. “P.E.I. use to have a lower participation in university than New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. U.P.E.I. is expanding its program offerings, they’ve developed some niche programs, graduate level programs and have been able to increase the participation rate of Islanders in university education.”
She said P.E.I. has caught onto the other provinces and university participation but that’s not necessarily enough to sustain the longer term because there simply are not as many 18, 19, 20-year-olds to go around.
“They also have done very well in diversifying their source of students,” Duguay said. “At the time, our institutions were defined as primarily undergraduate. U.P.E.I. was solely undergraduate except for the Vet College. They had to change the (university) act to grant graduate degrees and that just happened in the last 15 years. Most institutions were mostly focused locally and some institutions were doing very well in Ontario. But the proportion of international students would have been very small.”
Christian Lacroix, interim vice president of Academics at U.P.E.I., said this is a realty that is happening within the region.
“We are a Canadian university so we have been, and will continue to be, recruiting beyond the province,” he said. “It’s great that our provincial students are choosing us in large numbers. About 70 per cent of our student population is from the province but that demographic is changing. It’s going down. In five years it’s going to be significantly lower.”
He said in terms of recruitment the university has always aimed at beyond P.E.I.
“In the Atlantic region and the Canadian region we’re doing fairly well now and internationally,” Lacroix said. “It’s basically diversifying your areas to recruitment to maintain the head count you’re use to in germs of operations.”
He said one area where the university has been very successful is the graduate level.
“It’s been tapping into a local market of individuals who are interested in pursuing graduate level work, mostly in education, business, the MBA programs, those are two pro-graduate programs that have been very successful in attracting new students.”
He said the university is up 19.5 per cent, or 349 students, from last year in terms of the numbers and that is mostly due to Master of Education models that have been developed.