Western holds tight on undergrad enrolment

Despite losing millions of dollars in endowments due to the economic downturn, The University of Western Ontario will not make up the difference by boosting undergraduate enrolment.

Western President Paul Davenport says the university’s commitment may be tested during the difficult economy, but first-year enrolment will stay locked at 4,350.

“Admitting more undergraduates for budgetary reasons is a poor, ultimately self-defeating, strategy for meeting fiscal constraints,” says Davenport, during a Nov. 27 Board of Governors meeting.

“To go bigger starts to undermine many of the attributes we associate with the best student experience, and to have that experience means our core undergraduate commitment is to quality, not quantity.”

Current full-time undergraduate enrolment at Western of 19,800 (24,930 with the affiliated university colleges) is large enough to ensure a wide diversity of academic programs and realize economies of scale, says Davenport.

While the undergraduate population will remain constant, the graduate student enrolment is where Western looks to show steady improvement.

There is strong demand from a growing number of university graduates in Canada for further study, as well as strong demand from international students, and Western wants to take part in that growth.

Leadership in doctoral studies is a key element in research performance and reputation and will aid in recruiting outstanding faculty who excel in scholarship/ and research, says Davenport.

Projected to have 2,779 master’s-level students and 1,656 doctoral-level students this year, both are increases over last year. Looking ahead, the university plans to again increase graduate student numbers.

“Our numbers are low relative to research and the scholarship of our faculty,” says Davenport, adding Western is a bit behind other universities when it comes to attracting graduate students. “If we grow our graduate programs, we will become stronger all around.”

Western’s forecast of growth (in percentage terms) is less than the Ontario average for undergraduate and Master’s degrees, but is significantly higher for PhDs.