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International Student Enrolment - Alisa Webb

Recommended Goals: International Student Enrolment


■ To increase diversification of international students across the institution;
■ To ensure a balance of international and domestic students across programs and courses;
■ To better support international students from application to graduation;
■ To more accurately reflect institutional resources and program capacities;
■ To better manage enrolment and our resources and plan for future targets and needs;
■ To decrease UFV’s risks related to international student admissions and enrolment;
■ To allow time to increase employee intercultural skills and knowledge; and
■ To ensure UFV upholds its core values while fulfilling its mission and striving to achieve its

AGENDA ITEM # 3.2.


vision.
■ Additionally, maintain the current overall institutional target at 20% (with flexibility to ensure
an ongoing enrolment of 20%), revisiting this target as we successfully implement strategies
to achieve the above goals.
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AGENDA ITEM # 3.2.

International Student
Enrolment:
Report and
Recommendations

Prepared by Alisa Webb, VP, Students

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AGENDA ITEM # 3.2.

Table of Contents
Context .........................................................................................................................................................1
Federal and Provincial Government .........................................................................................................2
UFV ...........................................................................................................................................................2
Method .........................................................................................................................................................3
Summary of What I Heard and Learned .......................................................................................................4
Recommended Goals....................................................................................................................................6
Next Steps.....................................................................................................................................................6
References ....................................................................................................................................................7
Appendix: What I Heard and Learned ..........................................................................................................8
Theme 1: Many feel overwhelmed by the level and rate of growth we have experienced and
expressed the need for time to review and/or update our processes, principles, and practices. ...........9
1. Many respondents feel challenged to fully meet the program and course demands and needs
of our international students................................................................................................................9
2. Many expressed concern about our abilities to fully support international students. ................9
3. Many feel unprepared to adequately and appropriately support and help integrate all of our
students. .............................................................................................................................................10
4. Several indicated the need to update our admissions and enrolment processes, systems, and
principles to better manage the large growth in international students. ..........................................11
Theme 2: Many state that the issue is bigger than international students, who are just one piece of an
increasingly diverse campus. ..................................................................................................................12
Theme 3: Many feel we would benefit from increasing our international student diversity and
decreasing our risk..................................................................................................................................13
Theme 4: All acknowledge that it is understandably challenging for international students to learn a
new educational system, meet expectations, and be successful, while also adjusting to life in Canada.
................................................................................................................................................................14

Context

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Federal and Provincial Government


In January 2014, the Canadian government launched its International Education Strategy, which aimed
to double the number of international students and researchers studying in Canada, to 450,000, by
2022. This goal was linked to a desire to create jobs and stimulate the economy (CBC News, 2014). In
2019, the government reported ongoing success in their efforts. In 2018, Canada issued 572,415 study
permits, far exceeding its 2022 target of 450,000. When announcing the federal budget in 2018, the
Canadian government reaffirmed its commitment to continuing to grow international student
enrolments, allocating 148 million dollars of funding to assist, in part, with attracting more international
students to Canada through 2023 (Blatchford, 2019). They expanded on these goals with their 2019
update to the federal International Education Strategy, noting, in particular the desire to “Diversify the
countries from which international students come to Canada, as well as their fields, levels of study, and
location of study within Canada” (Minister of International Trade Development, 2019).

The BC government also set similar goals in its BC Jobs Plan, establishing a growth target of 50% for
international students studying in the province by 2016. By 2015, the province indicated they had
achieved growth of 44% and anticipated achieving the 50% increase target in 2016 (BC Ministry of
Advanced Education, Skills, and Training, 2016). Under the BC Liberals, universities were mandated,
through annual letters, to deliver on this provincial goal. According to government data, published
through the Student Transitions Project, in 2012/13, there were 112,800 international students studying
in BC at all levels, including approximately 34,000 at the post-secondary level. By 2016/17, there were
more than 150,000 students overall, with almost 59,000 in post-secondary studies (BC Ministry of
Advanced Education, Skills, and Training, 2014 and 2018). Various reports from BCCAT, the Ministry of
AEST, and both the BC and Canadian Councils for International Education indicate that 24-25% of
international students studying in Canada are doing so in BC. BC post-secondary institutions, as
evidenced by the numbers, actively worked to meet the 50% growth target set by government,
exceeding it by 2017.

Provincial government emphasis regarding international students shifted with the 2017 elections, with
new mandate letters indicating the need for a “balanced approach” to international education. 2019/20
mandate letters further indicated a forthcoming provincial framework for international education
(Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training, 2019). Regardless of this shift, international
student numbers have continued to climb. It is unclear what effect a provincial framework might have
on these numbers.

UFV
Given our mandate, UFV worked to meet provincially-stated international student growth goals,
articulating a goal to increase our international student headcount by 38% as part of UFV’s 2014-19
Strategic Enrolment Management Plan. The efforts of UFV International, as well as of provincial and
federal governments and organizations, saw us achieve this target in 2016/17. Numbers continued to
grow and by 2017, UFV’s international head count had grown by 55% to 1,142.

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Semester UFV International Students % Change from Base Year


Fall 2013 735 -
Fall 2014 841 14%
Fall 2015 906 23%
Fall 2016 974 33%
Fall 2017 1,142 55%
Fall 2018 1,354 84%
Winter 2019 1,757 139%
Fall 2019 1,820 148%

Growth has continued at such a rate that, as of Winter 2019, UFV sought to hold international student
enrolment at approximately 20% of our FTEs. While this interim measure provided the needed space to
catch up with student demand, reflect on processes, and start to manage this level of growth, all agreed
that UFV needed to develop a longer term, enrolment plan for international students.

At the same time, various individuals and groups at UFV began to express concern not only about our
rate of growth, but also about the international student experience on campus and the effects of growth
on classes, programs, and units across the institution. In response, Eric Davis, Provost and VP Academic,
launched the Task Force on International Student Success (TFISS) in September 2018. Led by Dean
Jacqueline Nolte, the task force brought together faculty, staff, and administrators from across the
institution to identify issues and make recommendations. They completed their work in winter 2019.

Method
During Fall 2018 and Winter 2019, numerous faculty, staff, and administrators took the opportunity to
speak with me about their experiences related to UFV’s rising international student population. I heard
from people from almost every Faculty and from most student support areas. I received feedback from
Senate and engaged in discussions with UFV International, the Senior Academic Leadership Team, and
the President’s Advisory Committee, often on multiple occasions.

I also heard from international students. Two sources provided a wealth of information about the
experience of new international students. First, UNIV 101 coordinators distributed a survey to all
students enrolled in UNIV 101 Winter 2019: a total of 144 students. Of the 144 students, 107 responded
– a response rate of 74%. All but one of the respondents were international students. Almost all of the
respondents were recent arrivals to Canada. Second, one UNIV 101 instructor had students reflect on 3
questions related to their UFV experiences:

 How is learning in a UFV classroom different from how you learned in your previous classrooms?
 What is one thing that you wish you had known before coming to UFV?
 If you could give a new international student one piece of advice about studying at UFV, what
would you tell them?

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The instructor then gathered their responses into a collated document. These reflections came from 2
sections of UNIV 101, totalling 72 students. Beyond the survey and student reflections, faculty and staff
also shared stories with me regarding their experiences with international students, including what
those students disclosed to them about their experiences.

Beyond this, I drew on my past experience as the Associate Dean of Students in the College of Arts and
my current experience as the VP Students. The following work is also reflected in this report:

 Tiina Higgins investigated approaches at all BC public post-secondary institutions, exploring


language on their websites to inform how they were managing international admissions and
enrolments.

 David Johnston, Vlada Dvoracek, Dave McGuire, and Peter Geller are working with various Deans
and departments, particularly in Professional Studies, to explore ways to address program capacity
and admissions. Their process included a look at international admissions at other Anglo-Western
institutions, UFV data, and potential models.

 I undertook a small literature review to understand how other institutions manage international
numbers and support international students, while also reading about international student
experiences in Anglo-Western institutions.

 I drew on the findings of the Task Force on International Student Success to draw conclusions
about international students’ experiences, as well as that of UFV faculty, staff, and administration.

I do not claim that what follows is comprehensive or exhaustive. I sent out no university-wide survey
and did not systematically visit every department, faculty, or unit. Instead, I invited people to participate
in this process and then drew on a range of information, contexts, conversations, and written
submissions to inform what follows. My thanks to everyone who took the time to engage in this process.

Summary of What I Heard and Learned


One word sums up the overarching theme of what I heard and learned through this process: concern.
Individuals and groups expressed concerns about UFV’s current approach to international admissions
and enrolment, about the level of support available to faculty and staff as they navigate this change in
classroom and campus composition, and about international student success and our efforts to support
it. At the heart of these concerns are the following, core issues:

 We are struggling to keep up with the demand from international students for particular
programs and courses, stretching department/school/faculty resources and jeopardizing timely
student access to the courses that they need.

 Our current approach to international student admissions and enrolment – which has focused
on growth since 2014 – needs updating so as to better predict and manage demand and
acknowledge program and course capacity. Further, early analysis suggests that international
students are more likely to change their programs once they begin study at UFV, creating

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challenges around enrolment planning and suggesting the need to re-visit our approach to
international recruitment, advising, and admissions.

 We are also struggling to adequately serve international students in a variety of support units
and ensure that all students have timely access to help. As with faculty and classroom, support
area resources are also stretched.

 Several note that while UFV is welcoming of all, we need to take the next steps as an institution
to better prepare ourselves for the growing diversity of our student population. This includes
the proposed need for unconscious bias training and the development of intercultural
competencies for all employees.

 We are not yet sufficiently collaborative when it comes to student support, particularly around
international student support. Part of this stems from thinking that international students are
the responsibility of UFV International. We need to foster the understanding that a UFV student
is a UFV student; we are all responsible for supporting our diverse students to achieve their
goals.

 In many ways, the concerns around international students are really about the challenges of
supporting an increasingly diverse student population. At the same time that our proportion of
international students is growing, for example, faculty and staff are also managing a growing
number of students with mental health and/or accessibility issues. We continue to welcome
large numbers of non-traditional students to UFV, too, all of whom have their own strengths
and challenges when it comes to accessing post-secondary education. Further, faculty concerns
about students’ academic readiness for post-secondary spans domestic and international
populations, although how this manifests itself differs by group. In the end, concerns about
international students are one piece of a larger picture.

 At the same time that we speak about an increasingly diverse campus, the diversity of our
international students has actually decreased. Many express concern about the level of risk
associated with 75%+ of our international students coming from India, particularly northern
India and the Punjab.

 Faculty and staff also expressed significant concern about the success of our international
students, particularly in transitioning to UFV and in achieving academic success. Students
echoed this concern, outlining the issues they face in adjusting to UFV, to our education system,
and to life in Canada.

While concerns were foremost on the minds of many, several also pointed to the value of international
students on our campuses and in our programs, compelling UFV to “get it right” so that we can reap the
benefits associated with this growing population of students and maintain our commitment to bring the
world to UFV. Of note, several stated that:

 Our campuses should reflect our world and the multi-cultural nature of Canada;
 International students increase opportunities for cross-cultural engagement and learning;
 International students enrich classroom discussions by sharing their experiences and observations;

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 International tuition helps address funding gaps created by decreasing government investment in
post-secondary; and
 International enrolments bolster declining or static domestic student enrolment, ensuring the
continued existence of some of our programs.

In the process of listening, reading, and gathering information, individuals and groups raised numerous
concerns that, while informing the proposed international student enrolment goals, go beyond the
scope of identifying goals and tactics to manage international student enrolment. Many of these echoed
the needs, concerns, and recommendations outlined in the Task Force on International Student Success
(TFISS). Establishing enrolment goals for international students, therefore, is about identifying strategies
and operational plans that will allow us to best support students, faculty, and staff based on reasonable
expectations of our capacity and resources. A commitment to better support for international students
and to improving the campus culture into which we welcome international students, requires the
adoption of recommendations outlined by the TFISS and better enrolment management. Our strategies
to meet international enrolment goals, in conjunction with those recommendations, will enable us to
achieve our goal of a vibrant, robust, and diverse university campus.

Recommended Goals
Based on all that I heard, read, and learned, I propose that the following goals inform the development
of strategies and/or operational plans to manage international student enrolment:

 To increase diversification of international students across the institution;


 To ensure a balance of international and domestic students across programs and courses;
 To better support international students from application to graduation;
 To more accurately reflect institutional resources and program capacities;
 To better manage enrolment and our resources and plan for future targets and needs;
 To decrease UFV’s risks related to international student admissions and enrolment;
 To allow time to increase employee intercultural skills and knowledge; and
 To ensure UFV upholds its core values while fulfilling its mission and striving to achieve its vision.

In order to foster our efforts to achieve the above and to provide direction for operational plans, I
suggest that UFV maintain its current overall target for international student enrolment at 20%. By
adopting a maintenance approach rather than a growth approach, we can more easily work to achieve
the above goals and support current student, faculty, and staff needs. Further, updating our systems
and plans and measuring their success will allow UFV to determine in the future whether to continue to
maintain the 20% goal or prepare, once again, for growth.

Please note that initial numbers will need to exceed 20% to ensure an ongoing international student
population of 20% on campus. Further, we need to determine whether the 20% goal reflects FTEs or
headcount; we are inconsistent in our counting of international students and this makes it challenging to
ensure we are being accountable to our goals.

Next Steps
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1. Generative discussion with senators at the September Senate meeting on the goals and
learnings outlined in this report

2. Engagement with academic leaders through the fall semester on the goals, including discussions
about operationalizing them, led by the Provost and VP Academic and supported by the VP
Students, Registrar, Budget Office, UFV International, and others, as needed

3. Sharing of the proposed goals with student support areas for feedback, led by the VP Students

4. Following consultation, finalizing and adopting the goals

5. Creation of a structure through which to implement and assess operational plans and their
outcomes

References
Blatchford, A. (2019, April 14). Canada aims to attract more international students by expanding

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presence overseas. Global News. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/5166974/international-students-


canada/

BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training. (2016, November 14). BC continues as top
choice for international students. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training. Retrieved from
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016AVED0107-002349

BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training. (2014). International students in BC’s education
systems. Student Transitions Project. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/post-secondary-
education/data-research/stp/stp-international-research-results_2014-10-10.pdf

BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training. (2018). International students in BC’s education
systems. Student Transitions Project. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/post-secondary-
education/data-research/stp/stp-international-research-results.pdf

BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training. (2019). Mandate letters: Post-secondary
institutions. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/post-secondary-
education/institution-resources-administration/mandate-letters

CBC News. (2014, January 15). Canada wants to double its international student body. CBC News.
Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/canada-wants-to-double-its-international-
student-body-1.2497819

Canadian Minister of International Trade Diversification. (2019, August 28). Building on Success: Canada’s
International Education Strategy (2019-2024). Government of Canada. Retrieved from
https://www.international.gc.ca/education/strategy-2019-2024-strategie.aspx?lang=eng

Choudaha, R. (2017). Three waves of international student mobility (1999-2020). Studies in Higher
Education, 52(5), 825-832.

Education Advisory Board. (2012). Expanding international enrollment: Considerations for small colleges.
Academic Affairs Forum. Retrieved from https://www.eab.com/-/media/EAB/Research-and
Insights/AAF/Custom/2012/11/Expanding-International-Enrollment-Considerations-for-Small-Colleges.pdf

Guo, Y. & Guo, S. (2017). Internationalization of Canadian higher education: Discrepancies between
policies and international student experiences. Studies in Higher Education, 42(5), 851-868.

Jones, E. (2017). Problematising and reimagining the notion of “international student experience.”
Studies in Higher Education, 42(5), 933-943.

Ragouzeos, Z., Steinfeld, T. & Wais, M. (2015, Spring). The global vision. NASPA Leadership Exchange:
Solutions for Students Affairs Management, 13(1), 12-18.

Romano, C.R. & Tsai, A. (2015, Spring). Student feedback guides international initiatives. NASPA
Leadership Exchange: Solutions for Students Affairs Management, Volume 13(1), 15-16.

Smith, L.M. & Rae, A.N. (2006). Coping with demand: Managing international student numbers at New
Zealand universities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10(1), 27-45.

Snow Andrade, M. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities. Journal of Research in


International Education, 5(2), 131-154.

Appendix: What I Heard and Learned

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Theme 1: Many feel overwhelmed by the level and rate of growth we


have experienced and expressed the need for time to review and/or
update our processes, principles, and practices.
1. Many respondents feel challenged to fully meet the program and course demands and
needs of our international students.

 While international students do apply for a range of programs, the majority are drawn to a
select few program areas and/or credentials, meaning international student demand is uneven
across the university. This significant demand is difficult for some departments, schools, and/or
faculties to manage.

 The lead-up to each semester consistently involves ongoing efforts to add more sections and
find faculty to teach the new sections.

 Efforts to ensure classroom diversity, with a mix of domestic and international students, quickly
unravel as areas try to accommodate international student demand for certain courses and
programs.

 In an effort to ensure that international students get the number of courses they need to satisfy
their study permits and to align with the semester-based fee model, departments feel pressured
to admit students to courses even if students lack the required pre-requisites and/or if they end
up taking courses normally taken in sequential semesters all in the same semester.

 UFV International reports growing concern by staff and international students about accessing
needed courses in a timely manner. Demand is outstripping available sections and, increasingly,
International has to make accommodations for students – such as refunding money – because
there are insufficient sections to meet demand.

2. Many expressed concern about our abilities to fully support international students.

 Areas report that they have the same resources available to them as they did when we had
fewer than half the international students currently enrolled.

 The rise of international students has increased demand on already stretched resources,
including Financial Aid and Awards, Counselling, Priority Access to Student Supports (PASS),
Advising, and the Academic Success Centre.

 Financial Aid and Awards notes that one of the key needs of international students is
money. They are seeing a rapid increase in the number of international students seeking
emergency funds. Supporting this trend, more than 50% of the recipients of food
hampers through Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 were international students, while, as a
group, international students made up less than 20% of the student population. Reports
indicate that this is going to be the norm, rather than the exception, moving forward
given changes in international student mobility. As Rahul Choudaha notes, institutions
are now receiving more “price sensitive” students “from emerging economies,” who

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have a “higher expectation of recovering the cost of studying abroad through better
career outcomes” (Choudaha, 2017, p. 831). Importantly, these students have fewer
financial resources than their counterparts did in earlier waves of international student
mobility.
 Generally, the number of international students making use of Student Services,
particularly Accessibility, and being referred through PASS is disproportionate to their
overall representation in the student population.

 International students typically take a different approach to accessing services than many
domestic students. Areas report that international students typically respond to an early offer of
help, such as when referred through PASS, but then “disappear,” only to reappear when in crisis.
With the crisis resolved, the student returns to their work, only to come up in a PASS referral
again. The cycle then repeats itself. Fundamentally, international students, generally, are less
likely to engage in ongoing support and, therefore, are more likely to end up in crisis. Staff
managing this cycle struggle to find time to review how we reach out to international students,
how we support their transition to UFV, and how we structure support in a way that makes
sense for them. Further, the literature shows that international students also face barriers to
accessing service:

 “Critical cultural differences in basic beliefs about mental health problems may hinder
international students’ use of mental health services” (Ragouzeos, Steinfeld, & Wais,
2015, p. 13).
 “Disclosure of personal problems to counselors may be regarded as disgraceful and
considered a clear sign of juvenile behaviour and weakness” (Ragouzeos, Steinfeld, &
Wais, 2015, p. 13).
 “International students may ‘somaticize’ their psychological problems,” presenting
physical concerns that are actually manifestations of poor mental health (Ragouzeos,
Steinfeld, & Wais, 2015, p. 14).
 Schools often lack multilingual resources which inform international students about
available services, seemingly ignoring that while the students are English speakers,
when stressed they are more comfortable in their native language (Romano and Tsai,
2015, 16).
 Staff may lack intercultural knowledge and competencies, making it difficult for
international students to feel understood and heard (Romano and Tsai, 2015, 16).

This suggests that there are likely a large number of international students who need help and
are not actually seeking it. When they do, existing resources will be stretched even further.

3. Many feel unprepared to adequately and appropriately support and help integrate all
of our students.

 Too few individuals possess the skills needed to engage in intercultural communication, to truly
understand the international student experience, and to approach issues related to learning,
engagement, and support from an informed, intercultural perspective.

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 Faculty indicate rising frustration amongst domestic students in international-heavy programs


and courses over the perceived and/or actual “deficiencies” of international students. Some
suggest that this is actually leading to intolerance and a rise of xenophobia.

 This correlation is supported by the literature, although the findings extend beyond
domestic student perceptions. When institutions embrace a “deficit conceptualisation,”
which places all emphasis on the need of international students to change and to learn
new ways of thinking and doing, “this can lead to negative stereotyping and even
prejudicial or racist behaviour by other students, faculty or members of the wider
university community” (Jones, 2017, p. 934 and Guo & Guo, 2017). Common
articulations of these deficits include, “lack of critical thinking, poor language
competence, failure to integrate, [and] tendency to plagiarise…” all of which are heard
regularly at UFV (Jones, 2017, p. 934).

 Collaborative mechanisms are not in place to ensure that all areas of the institution are working
together to support “our” international students in being successful.

 Focused attention on the “deficiencies” of international students repeatedly drown out


attempts to point to the value that international students bring to campus.

4. Several indicated the need to update our admissions and enrolment processes,
systems, and principles to better manage the large growth in international students.

 Prior to 2019-20, UFV was not significantly engaged in discussions about program capacity, ideal
international/domestic student balance in programs and courses, or how to manage growing
international admission and enrolment.

 While International and Institutional Research and Planning provide data to Faculties regarding
international student application numbers and demand, we lack a systematic and collaborative
way to predict enrolments and make decisions about application closures.

 International admissions have typically operated on a first-come, first-served model, with little
institutional direction around overall international student numbers or program targets and
limits.

 Insufficient attention has been paid to the effect that students in General Studies and Qualifying
Studies have on already heavily subscribed areas such as Communications, Business, and
Computer Information Systems. For example, when we admit a student to the CIS Diploma, we
can predict what courses they will take. If the same student is denied entry to the CIS Diploma,
they will then seek admittance – or be automatically granted admission by UFV – to General
Studies or Qualifying Studies. The student then mimics the CIS program. CIS, however, cannot
anticipate this enrolment demand on its courses because the students are not CIS students.
Already working to meet the demands of a large, CIS-admitted, international cohort, CIS is then
left scrambling to meet the demands of students who want CIS, but are not admitted to the
program. This ripples out to service areas that offer required courses for CIS, such as
Communications.

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 There are challenges with the current Foundations’ program which have resulted in admitted
Foundations’ students being able to take courses for which they lack the skills to be successful.
This perpetuates impressions regarding the so-called deficiencies of international students and
sets international students up for failure.

 International students, more so than their domestic counterparts, are perceived to be “program
jumpers,” making enrolment planning challenging and causing some to question the admissions
process.

 This is supported by the UNIV 101 survey. Students were asked about their current
programs. 71 respondents were in CIS; 23 were in General Studies; 7 students were in
Arts programs; 2 students were in Qualifying Studies; 1 student was in Aviation; and 1
student was unsure of their program. Of note:
 While only 23 students are currently admitted to General Studies, 42 students
indicated this was the program they intended to enrol in, suggesting that 19
students intend to change their program.
 While 71 students are currently admitted to CIS, only 47 indicated that they
intend to complete that program. Given the previous note, it seems likely that
many of these students intend to shift to General Studies.
 Advising notes that while a combination of factors likely contributes to the rate at which
international students change their programs, lack of understanding about their
programs prior to arrival likely plays a role.

Theme 2: Many state that the issue is bigger than international


students, who are just one piece of an increasingly diverse campus.
 UFV continues to be an access institution with a large complement of non-traditional students:
first-generation, Indigenous, mature, former youth in care, etc. These members of the student
population often need more and/or different support than "traditional" students. Adding a large
number of international students who have both unique and similar needs to domestic students
(and subpopulations within) has stretched resources.

 Faculty regularly identify students as "international" who are actually domestic, but may be first
or second-generation immigrants. Such students may have needs similar to some of our
international students, requiring additional supports from faculty and staff.

 Faculty have been critical for some time regarding domestic student readiness for academic
reading and writing at the university-level. International students compound an existing issue.

 Faculty are managing a growing number of students who need accommodation through
Accessibility Services, requiring not only facilitating that accommodation, but also adapting
classroom materials and assignments to meet individual student needs.

 A 2017 article, “Problematising and Reimagining the Notion of ‘International Student


Experience’” points to these issues. Fundamentally, “the traditional distinction between
international and domestic students may be increasingly difficult to sustain…” because “not all
international students, or even those from the same country have similar needs” and because

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“certain domestic students may have similar requirements” (Jones, 2017, p. 933 & 942). Of note,
academic culture and academic writing can be challenging for a range of students, not all
“domestic” students are native English speakers, some international students actually studied in
Canada during high school, and a combination of personal, familial, national, and institutional
factors can contribute to a range of challenges that students might face (Jones, 2017, p. 935-
940). Faculty and staff at UFV, therefore, are likely responding as much to international students
as they are to the overall growing number of students who need a range of supports and
accommodations both inside and outside of the classroom for a range of academic and non-
academic issues.

Theme 3: Many feel we would benefit from increasing our


international student diversity and decreasing our risk.
 More than 75% of our current international student population is from India. This presents a
significant level of risk. A shift in the political, economic, or social climate, for example, could
suddenly see those numbers drop significantly, as evidenced by the recent situation with Saudi
Arabia.

 Many of our Indian international students are drawn to Business and Computer Information
Systems, leading to a lack of program and classroom diversity in those areas.

 While some departments attempt to manage classroom diversity by reserving seats for
international students and domestic students, overwhelming international demand can see
those abandoned, resulting in whole sections full of international students. Often, these
international students are from a single part of the world, detracting from the goal of an
international experience.

 In an attempt to manage large numbers of international student applications, UFV typically


closes international admissions very early. Due to differing regional practices around overseas
application, UFV fundamentally privileges admission for those students from regions which
encourage students to apply early. This does not foster diversity.

 Many indicated a potential risk to UFV’s reputation if we continue as we are. While not
accurate, impressions held by a variety of individuals, and communicated through various
channels, present a reputational risk to UFV, including:

 Complaints that domestic students are being displaced by international students;


 Assertions that courses are being “dumbed down” so they are more accessible to less-
prepared international students, thereby both diminishing the experience of domestic
students and degrading overall academic quality;
 Accusations that UFV is behaving unethically by treating international students as mere
“cash cows,” taking international students’ money with little care for their success; and
 Arguments that UFV is allowing itself to function merely as a vehicle through which
international students seek permanent residency rather than upholding academic
standards and integrity.

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 Some also noted potential risk to programs. Departments noted rising numbers in their two-
year diplomas, linking this growing demand to the requirements for permanent residency. They
expressed concern that their degree programs could become diminished if too many
international students are admitted with interest only in completing two years of study. They
fear what will happen if 80% of their cohorts elect to graduate with a two-year credential,
leaving upper-level courses with insufficient students and risking cancellation.

Theme 4: All acknowledge that it is understandably challenging for


international students to learn a new educational system, meet
expectations, and be successful, while also adjusting to life in Canada.
 Faculty noted ongoing challenges related to international students’ English language skills. They
indicated this contributed to a lack of student understanding of assignment and classroom
expectations, low levels of classroom participation, challenges with group work, reliance on
domestic students for assistance, and difficulty completing assignments and exams. Others
noted that perceived low-level English language skills also keep international students from
more readily creating cross-cultural friendships with domestic students. Further, faculty
questioned the validity of IELTS scores as a true measure of a student’s English language skills,
noting that IELTS is about proficiency, not the level required for academic success in an English-
language university. In support of this, one department noted that when they’ve asked
international students with strong IELTS scores to complete English language placement exams,
the students have been repeatedly unsuccessful in their attempts to demonstrate the level of
ability indicated by their IELTS scores.

 UFV faculty are not alone in this concern. The topic inevitably comes up in any
conversation about international students and has been the subject of numerous
academic articles. Most of these articles are careful to make a distinction between
proficiency and academic readiness. Based on testing, students may be deemed
proficient, but still struggle in a Canadian classroom. Findings outlined in one article are
representative of findings across several studies:
 Academic work requires a range of “English-related skills, such as listening
ability, lecture and reading comprehension, note taking, oral communication,
vocabulary and writing” in order for the student to be successful (Snow
Andrade, 2006, p. 139).
 At the same time, “Professors’ accents, idiomatic styles, humour and choice of
examples in lectures” also make things more challenging, as does the speed at
which native speakers talk (Snow Andrade, 2006, p. 139).
 Studies show that international students regularly report a lack of confidence
when entering a classroom with native English speakers, even though they are
technically proficient. They worry about making mistakes.
 Plus, given the difference between education systems in China and India, for
example, and in North America, international students who studied in English in
their home countries have not had to do the types of assignments that are
common at UFV. They are not used to engaging in analytical, argument-based
writing and analysis, nor in making presentations or having to complete a heavy
reading load (Snow Andrade, 2006, p. 139).

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 Others noted that our current, India-dominated international student population displays lower
math and quantitative readiness than students from other countries, such as China, as well as
less familiarity with basic computing.

 International students point to a wider range of issues than just English language skills when it
comes to being successful at UFV.

 Students were not used to online work. Many indicated they had never used a computer
for their studies, had never used a computer to complete assignments, and had never
used an online learning platform for discussions, quizzes, etc. They struggled to use
Blackboard and Word. When offering advice to new international students, they
encouraged them to get computer skills before arriving.
 Students were not used to having multiple assignments through a course. While some
pointed to the advantages of regular assessment, many noted they struggled to keep
track of multiple due dates and assignment expectations and to adjust to different types
of assessment than they had previously experienced. In response to this, they said that
prospective international students need to:
 Be prepared to embrace having a schedule and a to-do list, stay on top of things,
and avoid procrastination. Some added the information that assignments
needed to be handed in on time, reinforcing the need to embrace a schedule.
 Understand that the work takes a lot more time than they are used to, so they
need to be prepared to spend a lot more time on their course work.
 Recognize that the course expectations are totally different from what they
have experienced before, so they should be prepared to seek extra help,
especially from the Academic Success Centre, but also from other services on
campus.
 Some students said they wished they had known about our high writing expectations.

 Faculty note significant issues around academic integrity, with international students
unfamiliar with the standards of citation and referencing required in Canada. Some
acknowledge that this results from different cultural understandings of the demonstration
of learning and note that UFV needs to do more to help students understand these
standards before they arrive.

 International students are vocal about this challenge. In their reflections, students noted
several related issues:
 They had little, if any, previous knowledge of academic integrity, citation,
referencing, and plagiarism before arriving at UFV. They would advise
prospective students to start engaging in this learning before arriving in Canada.
 UFV grading systems and GPA calculations are unknown to them; their previous
educational experience typically focused on awarding a percentage grade for a
course of study, so UFV’s letter grades and GPA system are new to them.
 Overall, many students wished they had known more about the Canadian
education system prior to arrival, including its structure, expectations,
approaches, grading, and rules and regulations.

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 At the same time, international students are quite complementary of the support UFV
faculty and staff provide, stating they had never had such helpful and caring instructors
or access to so many resources to help them to be successful.

 Some indicated they felt that part of international students’ struggles related to their lack of
understanding regarding their program and courses, with several suggesting that agents and/or
parents likely push students to apply to programs, and subsequently take courses, for which
students lack the necessary skills or interest.

 As is very obvious from the student reflections, students wish they had known more
about their program and their courses. Many stated they had little knowledge of what
they would be studying, the requirements for their admitted programs, or the
expectations associated with their programs and courses. Contributing to this, according
to students, is that UFV registered them in their first term classes. They had not chosen
their own courses, so knew little about what they would be taking. This led to some
trying to change their classes upon arrival to better reflect their interests and desired
courses. Beyond course selection, several indicated they would have liked to receive
their course syllabi before arriving so they could start familiarizing themselves with their
courses and preparing for them – something they were used to in their previous
education systems. These reflections also informed the advice they would give to
prospective international students, encouraging them to learn as much as they can
before they arrive, but also to choose a path of study that reflects their interests.

 International students, in both the survey and in their reflections, make clear that they struggle.
In response to the survey question “What topics would you have liked to learn more about,”
many indicated topics such as Canadian culture, Canadian education systems, and adjusting to
life in Canada. Students also referenced budgeting, health and wellness, time management, goal
setting, and building confidence.

 International students, therefore, struggle with many of the same issues that are
common to most students making the transition to university, particularly those
students arriving to UFV straight out of high school. Entering adulthood, adjusting to a
new set of expectations, juggling jobs and school, and growing independence bring a
host of challenges not unique to international students. International students,
however, are doing all of this while away from home, adapting to what is often a very
different education system, and adjusting to life in Canada.

 In response to “What was the most valuable part of UNIV 101 for you,” many stated social
aspects, such as meeting others and building friendships; getting to know more about university
and Canadian life; academic learning, such as academic integrity, group projects and teamwork;
and making presentations and participating in discussions. Indeed, in suggesting advice for
prospective international students, current students pointed to the importance of building
relationships across the campus, both with friends and with UFV employees.

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