Halifax – The Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT) will host a conference highlighting the opportunities and challenges facing international students, and the universities that they attend. The conference brings together representatives of government, university administration, student and faculty, and will be held at Saint Mary’s University on September 19 & 20.
“International students are present on university campuses across Nova Scotia, but faculty feel more could be done to help students reach their potential, both academically and socially,” says Scott Stewart, president of ANSUT. Nova Scotia hosted almost 14,000 international students in 2015, and that number continues to rise.
“Clearly, there are many benefits to welcoming international students to Nova Scotia. But there are challenges as well, and we’d like to look at those together, to find solutions.” In addition to financial benefits, international students bring a cultural and intellectual diversity to Nova Scotia’s universities. “International students are charged differential fees to attend Nova Scotian Universities, sometimes almost doubling the tuition paid by Canadian students. Classes can be filled to over-capacity, and community infrastructure can struggle to provide necessities like public transportation and housing. Other issues in the classroom, like lack of intercultural competence, and overcrowding can make the university experience difficult for everyone,” says Stewart.
Stewart notes that a dependence on the revenue provided by international students can lead to serious consequences for universities. “At CBU, where I teach,” says Stewart, “international students now represent about 60% of our enrollment. That makes us vulnerable as we saw a few years ago when the Saudi government changed its policy and those students disappeared. That created a great deal of anxiety at CBU, including threats of layoffs. We don’t want to see that again and so we need to have serious discussions about sustainability in international and domestic enrollment. Instead, the government seems to be using international student tuition as a way to excuse their inadequate funding.”
Student groups and associations will have the floor during the afternoon session on Friday. That includes Beatrice Chiang, president of the Dalhousie International Students’ Association, a student society that represents 4,000 international students at Dalhousie University.
“International students are essential for the continued success of universities. These students contribute so much more than just international differential fees for the universities in Nova Scotia,” says Chiang. “As a group, they bring the world to the university. Education for all students are enriched by internationalized classroom environments when discussions with global perspectives can flourish.”
Conference details can be found at ansut.ca.