Universities see strong early numbers for the fall



Ontario students are taking up university admission offers at almost the same rate as before the pandemic, suggesting the shift to online education may not drive away as many new students as feared.


The first published data on confirmed offers of acceptance at Ontario universities show almost no difference between this year and last year, although there are sharp contrasts among schools. Queen’s University and Western show large increases among incoming Ontario high school students, while some universities in Northern Ontario and outside the Greater Toronto Area are seeing declines.


Even the numbers of international students, who would face significant hurdles getting to Canada but can enroll online from their home countries, seem to be holding steady in comparison with last year.


Over all, 103,426 offers of admission to domestic and international students have been confirmed, compared with 102,289 a year ago.


But university registrars caution that a lot can change between now and September, when final registrations are due.

The threat of enrolment declines has weighed heavily on universities as they consider the potential effect on their budgets. But with no point of comparison to a global pandemic, making projections has been difficult.


At Western University, confirmations from students at Ontario high schools are up nearly 28 per cent compared with last year. Registrar Glen Tigert said the university shifted its admission strategy in March to focus on domestic high school students. The thinking at the time was that international students would have a harder time travelling to Canada in the fall, he said. The number of international students who have confirmed an offer of admission at Western is down about 10 per cent compared with last year.


The strategic shift applied to admission offers. Although the final average grade of entering students is expected to remain about the same as last year, the required midyear average was slightly relaxed, Mr. Tigert said.


“We feel good about our numbers, but we are also watching them closely,” Mr. Tigert said. “There’s still a long time between now and September.”


The admissions process this year is particularly tricky because it’s usually guided by historical patterns, which have been completely thrown off by COVID-19.


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