U of M, ICM both see enrolment increases this term

More students on campus could present unique set of challenges

The University of Manitoba recently released its preliminary enrolment figures for the fall 2013 term, showing an overall increase of 1.8 per cent, to 29,321 students, alongside a 17.1 per cent increase in international student enrolment, to 3,750 students.

John Danakas, director of marketing communications for the university, says a benchmark is set for international enrolment to maintain the university’s global scope; this year the benchmark of 10 per cent was surpassed and hit 11.2 per cent.

“It is great to see an increasing number of students choosing the U of M to learn, study, and eventually graduate,” Danakas told the Manitoban.

But what are the consequences of more students on campus?

“There have been issues with overcrowded classrooms for years. It may be particularly difficult in the faculty of arts, which has experienced an 11 per cent increase,” said Sharon Alward, University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) president, when asked if UMFA has resource concerns.

Managing high demand courses and class space is on the administration’s radar. Danakas says that the U of M has a classroom space management plan, and that room availability is not an issue.

“I know in our faculty, we are constantly getting pressure to increase class sizes [ . . . ] but the administration isn’t backing those requests with monetary needs to meet them [ . . . ] then money has to be spread thinner and the quality of education goes down,” says Kevin Scott, senior instructor in the department of biological sciences.

Furthermore, 17 per cent is a large increase in international students, who often require different resources than Canadian students.

Vice-provost (academic planning and regulations) David Collins says that the university is well equipped to meet these needs.

“We have a robust international centre for students that has advisers and programming. Orientation programming was revamped this year with an expectation of a 10-12 per cent increase in international student attendance.”

Meanwhile, concerns remain for some over a controversial college that many international students attend prior to officially gaining acceptance to the U of M.

The International College of Manitoba (ICM), a private preparatory college for foreign students on campus and no stranger to public criticism—scrutinized in the past for their recruitment practices—has their largest enrolment ever this term, with approximately 800 students.

Stakeholders have previously voiced their concerns over sharing publicly-funded resources with a private enterprise – ICM’s parent company is Australian-based Navitas.

Alward says that “[UMFA] believes that University of Manitoba students should have first access to the best equipped publicly-funded classrooms, laboratories, etc. [ . . . ] Students and staff at ICM do not have the protection [of] intellectual property provisions, collective agreements, or even [the] university policy. That is a problem.”

Scott takes it upon himself to ensure expensive lab equipment, which is often purchased with student-funded endowments, is locked up when users who are not under such aforementioned policies are using classrooms.

According to Danakas, “many spaces on campus, including libraries and recreational facilities, are open to the general public, not just students of the University of Manitoba or ICM.”

ICM college director and principal Susan Deane says that 95 per cent of ICM students are successfully admitted into the U of M. Deane also explained that ICM instructors and course outlines are approved, and academic quality is monitored by, the university.

Collins says he has been “assured by the director [of ICM] that the current enrolment level raises no concerns (regarding academic standards)” and is “also confident that [the U of M’s] own oversight procedures remain robust.”

When asked what he thinks about the effect ICM has on U of M’s reputation, Scott says, “Personally, [I think] it has a huge impact on the integrity of the university; I am certainly not proud of the fact that our university has done this.”

With files from Kevin Linklater.