Region draws record number of foreign students

Camosun, Uvic, RRU see spike in international numbers

Universities and colleges across Greater Victoria are seeing the payoff in campaigns to recruit abroad, as international student enrollment has spiked this year.

It’s a trend that isn’t likely to slow as the number of high school grads in B.C. decreases and Camosun College, Royal Roads and the University of Victoria continue to ramp up recruitment and programming geared to attract foreign students.

“We’ve come to accept that Victoria is a destination that brings people from all over the world,” said Thevi Pather, director of global advancement at Royal Roads University.

“We recognize that given the changing demographics in B.C., we need to offer programs that bring together Canada and different parts of the world and offer a more diverse set of programs.”

Royal Roads currently has 220 international students registered in on-campus programs, up from 150 last year.

The bulk of those students have come to RRU from Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel, Russia, as well as China and India, where growth in the 15-to 25-year-old demographic has created an outpouring of international students.

China and India also top the list of 53 source countries for international registries at Camosun. More than 578 international students – up 120 since last year – registered between the college’s two campuses.

“We introduced some key innovations to make Camosun more accessible to international students and more competitive globally,” said Geoff Wilmshurst, director of Camosun International.

The boost at Camosun has allowed the college to increase the number of ESL sections, re-hire four previously laid-off instructors and decrease domestic wait lists, added Tom Roemer, vice president of strategic development.

“International students make it possible for us to expand domestic student capacity at a time when we face serious fiscal pressures,” said Roemer.

Roemer estimates each international student infuses about $30,000 into the local economy annually,

At UVic, gains in international enrolment have been modest in light of the institution’s overall registration of about 20,000 students. UVic counted an increase of 136 full-time equivalent students compared to the fall of 2011, bringing the university’s international total to 1,036 students.

But UVic expects more to come in the near future. This year the school implemented a pathway program that allows ESL students to complete for-credit courses at the same time as fulfilling their language requirements on campus.

With 77 per cent of the student population at UVic hailing from outside of Greater Victoria, the university is already equipped with ample new student transition programming easily adapted to fit the needs of international students, said Carolyn Russell, director of student recruitment at UVic.

“There’s great opportunity for us to work together as a city in attracting students to our system,” Russell said. “We all work together because it has the potential to be seamless: come do high school, go to the college and transfer to university.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com