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UWindsor aims to diversify international student enrollment following provincial audit

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The University of Windsor is aiming to diversify its international student enrollment following a financial review by the province’s auditor general.

It found the University of Windsor is significantly reliant on enrolment of international students from a small group of countries.

According to the review, “over-reliance on a few geographic regions increases the risk that external factors, such as a global economic downturn or foreign policy shift, could significantly impact a university’s financial health.”

In 2020/21, 60 per cent of international students at UWindsor were from India and 12 per cent from China.

“The university is working on diversification efforts, particularly in South America, Central America, parts of Eastern Europe, as well as in the Middle East,” said Gillian Heisz, UWindsor's vice-president of finance and operations.

“We have agents deployed all over the world in those countries promoting the university and grants that we offer.”

Heisz said the university will not change its admission standards to meet its goals around diversification.

“The best students who want to come to the university, will be the students that will be focusing,” she said. “We are hoping that the students come from a more diverse array of countries.”

However, Heisz explains the university won’t immediately see the benefits of this recruitment strategy.

“It is typical for us to not see the fruits of our labor when it comes to international student strategies for three to five years,” she said.

In addition, the auditor general says the university did not track graduating international students to see if they stayed in the region and contributed to the economy.

It suggests keeping up to date efforts could help the university adjust its program offerings and improve its recruitment efforts.

Windsor’s international undergraduate student graduation rate for 2022 was 69 per cent.

Heisz says financial concern may impact a student’s academic success. She says the university’s international students tuition guarantee is providing students with “comfort and reducing stress.”

“When a student chooses the University of Windsor, their tuition rate is guaranteed to stay the same all the way through their studies. There's no increases for inflation and increases in program,” she said.

Also in the review, the auditor general found Windsor has the third-highest debt per student ratio among 19 Ontario universities and it does not have a policy in place limiting the level of external financing.

“A big point of pressure for the university over the last several years has been a 10 per cent tuition cut as announced by the Ford government in 2018,” said Heisz.

“The students who started here in fall 2020 are actually paying lower levels of tuition than the students who started during fall 2017.”

Overall the review found the University of Windsor is currently operating in a financially-stable manner.  

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