It’s time for an annual Dal head count.
Each October, the Association of Atlantic Universities collects and publishes preliminary enrolment numbers from its members. These stats provide a glimpse into the evolving student populations in the region’s universities.
This year, as of October 1, Dalhousie’s student body was counted at 18,564 full- and part-time students — 213 more students than at the same time last year.
It’s a very modest increase (1.14 per cent), but certainly welcome news, given that the university had planned around flat year-over-year enrolment for 2013/14. First-year students account for the bulk of the increase: a 6.7 per cent increase in full-time, new from high school students.
“That increase in students at the first-year level bodes well for our enrolment in the future, as we hope those students will stay with us for the next four years or beyond,” says Asa Kachan, assistant vice-president, enrolment management and university registrar.
Kachan cites the Faculty of Agriculture as a particular success story: a 4.24 per cent increase overall, and an 8.1 per cent increase in first-year students.
“It’s an acknowledgement of the hard work that’s been done through the merger year to bring our teams together and to build promotion of agricultural programs into our national and international recruitment efforts,” she explains.
Diversifying Dal’s student body
In terms of trends, the growth in enrolment came from an increase in out of province and international students, which now comprise 56 per cent of the new class. Kachan says that’s not surprising, given the decreasing number of high school students in the province and the region more generally.
“We have more students coming from Ontario, more students coming from Alberta and a continued increase in our number of international students,” says Kachan. “We’ve done really well to diversify where our students are coming from.”
Dalhousie’s student population is now 13 per cent larger than it was 10 years ago (and that's when you include former NSAC numbers as part of Dalhousie). Kachan says that while growth has its benefits, at this point the university is working on keeping overall numbers steady while focusing on particular areas. For example: enrolment in arts and social sciences programs is down this year, and while this reflects broader trends in higher education, it will be an area of attention for the recruitment team in the coming months. And enrolment drops at other universities in the region suggest that even if Dalhousie is doing well at the moment to balance out demographic declines at home, those declines are a real factor going forward.
Still, Kachan is pleased with the overall numbers as they stand for this year, and credits the efforts of Dal’s recruitment and marketing teams in continuing to attract quality students to Dalhousie. She also salutes Dal’s instructors and staff across campus for continuing to support students. "When our current students share their positive experiences at Dalhousie, is endorses us as a great place to study," she says.
"We’ve continued to draw students from the region, even in a time of demographic decline. We’ve come through a merger strong, in terms of our enrolment, and our diversity is part of what makes Dalhousie an interesting place to be a student and which reduces our enrolment vulnerability going into the future.”
Dalhousie calculates its official enrolment statistics for the 2013/14 academic year in December. However, below are preliminary numbers as of October 1.
• Undergraduate: 14,650 (+1.6%)
• Graduate: 3,914 (-0.4%)
• Total: 18,564 (+1.1%)
• 2,505 (+10.8%)
Full-time first-year undergraduate students
• 2,520 (+6.7%)
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