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Ten things to know about international student enrolment

University is back in session next week and UBC is welcoming 63,370 students. In recent months, many people have asked about the impact of global events on international students wanting to study in Canada. Here, Pamela Ratner, UBC vice-provost and associate vice-president, enrolment and academic facilities, answers the top ten questions.

How many international students study at UBC? 

UBC received about 14 per cent more completed international applications for first year undergraduate programs compared with last year – consistent with the pattern of growth over the past several years. In 2016/17, we had 17 per cent more international applications than for 2015/16.

Of course, not all applicants are admitted. We must be selective because we do not have spaces to satisfy all qualified applicants. While the numbers are still preliminary, for the upcoming 2017/18 school year, about 16,322 of UBC’s 63,370 students are international undergraduate and graduate students.  Our first-year undergraduate class for 2017/18 will be composed of roughly 9,300 students on our two campuses – including 6,400 domestic students and 2,900 international students. 

How does the growth in international students compare with the growth in domestic undergraduate students?  

Domestic student enrolment has remained relatively steady since 2012. UBC receives direction and funding from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training that determines the number of full-time domestic spaces available. In 2012, UBC enrolled 40,805 domestic undergraduate students and we expect roughly the same number in 2017/18. We have always enrolled more domestic students than we are provincially funded for.

Do international students take spaces away from domestic students? Are international students subsidized by B.C. taxpayers? 

No. Each year, the provincial government funds UBC for a set number of domestic students.

Domestic and international undergraduate applicants are considered separately and they do not compete for the same spaces. Domestic applicants compete against each other for the government-funded spaces, while international students compete for spaces that are not government funded. International undergraduate students pay significantly higher tuition fees, unaided by funding from B.C. taxpayers.

How many students apply to UBC and how many get admitted?

Every year, we receive more than 40,000 applications for our undergraduate programs (domestic, international and transfer students) and roughly two-thirds of those applicants are offered admission. These applicants are very well-qualified students.

Last year, we offered admission to 63 per cent of the Grade 12 domestic graduates who submitted applications to UBC (both campuses combined). In comparison, 60 per cent of international undergraduate applicants were accepted.

How does UBC decide how many international undergraduate students to accept?

The number of international undergraduate students we can admit is determined by individual faculties and approved by the UBC Senate in accordance with our commitment to provide excellent education and appropriate levels of support for all students, including counselling, advising, library services, experiential learning opportunities, and so forth. 

Is it easier for international students to get accepted? 

The university first evaluates domestic applicants to ensure that the most qualified students are offered admission to the domestic, government-funded spaces. This competitive process determines the marks required to gain admission – typically far above the minimum standard.

With the wide range of educational systems found around the world, it is impossible to precisely equate grades (for example, 75 per cent vs. B+ vs. 4 for an International Baccalaureate Certificate course).  Through the competitive process, UBC establishes admission criteria for international students that are comparable with domestic students and validates these equivalencies by examining first-year performance to ensure that international undergraduate students admitted perform at the same level as domestic students with comparable grades.

Where do the majority of UBC’s international students come from?

UBC has one of the most diverse populations of international students in Canada, with students from more than 150 countries. The top five source countries of international students in 2016-17 were China (4,929), the U.S.A. (1,594), India (846), Republic of Korea (504), and Japan (365).

This year’s first-year undergraduate students come from 131 countries and there are more students than ever before from Turkey and India. 

How much tuition do international students pay versus domestic students?

International students across B.C. colleges and universities, and in other provinces, are typically charged tuition that is higher than that charged domestic students.

UBC’s international undergraduate students pay a tuition fee that is benchmarked against fees charged for similar programs at peer institutions in Canada and reflective of the value of the UBC degree. Tuition revenue from international students enables UBC to provide an outstanding education and enriched student experience for all students. The funding goes towards:

  • Faculties: Most of the tuition revenue is allocated to the faculties to support teaching, learning and research priorities. These priorities can include hiring new teaching and research faculty, enriching support services for students, and facility upgrades.
  • Programs and services for students: Tuition supports the library system, IT costs, experiential learning opportunities, summer work-learn opportunities, counselling and career planning, mental health and wellbeing support.
  • International student financial aid: Roughly 7.5 per cent of international students’ tuition is earmarked for international student financial support. This year, UBC earmarked $19 million for international undergraduate student financial assistance.
  • UBC Excellence Fund: This fund was created in 2016 to serve the university’s top priorities including the recruitment and retention of exemplary faculty, staff, and students, world-changing research, and an exceptional learning experience for our students. A total of $6.3 million was invested in 2016/17.

How much revenue does UBC gain from international students?

In the 2016/17 fiscal year, $234 million was received from international undergraduate students compared with $221 million from domestic undergraduate students.

International students also provide important economic benefits to the city, the province and the country – sparking relationships that can lead to lasting, mutually beneficial exchanges of research, trade and business opportunities.

What about domestic students going abroad?  How does UBC ensure global engagement isn’t just a one-way street?

International engagement is the hallmark of a globally-ranked university like UBC, and it’s one of the compelling reasons students from B.C. and the rest of Canada come here to study. They know that they will have an opportunity to learn from top faculty members drawn from around the world and to interact with and learn from peers whose diverse backgrounds will enrich their student experience.

We encourage our domestic students to broaden their horizons through internationally-focused learning opportunities – enabling them to become global citizens ready to meet the challenges of the world.

More UBC students go on exchanges, research, and study abroad programs than students at any other university in Canada. UBC’s Go Global program partners with 300 universities worldwide, and administers over $1.4 million in international learning awards so that UBC students may study abroad and experience the culture of another country. UBC students also have the opportunity to complete co-operative education programs in Canada and abroad. International experiences build independence, initiative and adaptability — important traits valued by employers.

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