RRU presses forward with residence expansion plans

Munching on pizza and slurping sodas, Chinese teenagers listened, as patiently as teenagers can, to Royal Roads University’s pitch.

Munching on pizza and slurping sodas, Chinese teenagers listened, as patiently as teenagers can, to Royal Roads University’s pitch.

The Colwood campus was the last stop for the 165 students’ cross country tour of Canadian universities last week.

RRU president Allan Cahoon highlighted the benefits of the specialized university with the iconic castle, as part of an ongoing campaign to woo foreign students.

This particular bunch attends Concord College of Sino-Canada, a group of academic schools that blend Canadian and Chinese curriculum. RRU signed a number of exchange and education agreements with Chinese colleges and universities in 2010.

“We hope some of them chose Royal Roads as their destination for an undergraduate degree,” said RRU vice-president Cyndi McLeod. “These are outstanding students academically. It would be very, very fortunate for Royal Roads to attract students from that group of colleges.”

The university is actively recruiting students from abroad, as it expands its undergraduate degree programs. Over the next five years, RRU wants 1,400 students studying at the campus, including hundreds of foreign students.

“In the last year and a half we went from no international students to just under 200 on campus,” McLeod said. “This growth and diversity of students will have a positive impact on local economies, especially in Colwood and Langford.”

As part of a strategy to house these students, last fall the university issued a request for expressions of interest around a plan to build a series of residence buildings on the upper campus, near Sooke Road, called the Uplands Village.

Thirty companies responded to the concept, which has been narrowed to seven “tangible” proposals. Cahoon hopes to chose one partner organization within a few months.

The key terms of any partnership would be the outside organization coming up with enough capital to build four-storey, 100-unit student residences.

After building its new Learning and Innovation Centre and under the current spending climate, Cahoon doubts the province would fund residencies at RRU.

“We need creative approaches to the proposition. (RRU) is not able to borrow to build the residences,” Cahoon said. “The financial climate of the government is a major challenge. The government has no funds for capital improvements.”

Cahoon noted the Capital City Centre development at Colwood Corners will eventually offer incoming students a place to live, but he expects many foreign students will want to live on campus.

“Many first year students who don’t know anyone will probably want to live on campus or a home-stay,” he said.

“I’m optimistic about this project. I’m hoping in the next few months to clarify a partner.”