I am packing my bags for China
November 18th, 2011

I am packing my bags for China. Yes, it’s the destination of choice for Canadian and US recruiters, and has been for a number of years. Enrolment figures have shot up at almost every self-respecting post-secondary ed institution on the continent in the last 5 years, largely because of the influx of Chinese students, especially graduate students.

But the slowly emerging story is that such dependency on Chinese students will be catastrophic for those large universities that have been crowding their classrooms with them. China will not always look to this continent for its advanced training, not after it has established thousands of its own institutions based on the western model. And then there’s the infamous single child policy, which will start to affect demographics radically. Soon there won’t be that many young Chinese people in need of education.

Western Canadian universities in particular, UBC and Alberta—have massively ramped up their international recruitment over the years, and are very dependent on China for their enrolment figures. How will such figures ever be sustained in the wake of an inevitably diminished pool of Chinese recruits? How will those institutions cope and are they preparing for such a big shift?

Memorial has a bit of an advantage in not having jumped on the Chinese bandwagon years ago. Our numbers are modest and so we are not too dependent on Asia in general for our stability. It’s a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race situation here. Sometimes it pays to get behind the curve. That said, we are indeed going to China with several other Canadian universities because there are still thousands of young people seeking Canadian graduate programs. The Canadian Embassy is managing the welcome mat and some delicious food awaits my palate, I am sure. Our reputation as a relatively low-cost, strong value-based and welcoming nation is increasing; when you look at the UK or Australia these days you see far less friendly faces. So bring it on. We have over 200 interviews lined up next week in Beijing with prospective students, and who knows how many of those will be eligible or interested in attending Memorial? Modest enrolment gains, with an emphasis on quality, can’t hurt.

I’ll be posting from Beijing next week. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Dr. Faye Murrin is Dean pro tempore of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons.) at Memorial University, her M.Sc. at Acadia University, and her Ph.D. at Queen's University. Her research interests have always been focused on fungi, in particular the cell biology of insect pathogenic fungi and, more recently, the ecology of mycorrhizal mushrooms in the boreal forest. Dr. Murrin has served in a number of positions on the Council of the Mycological Society of America and was awarded the title of MSA Fellow for her contributions. She was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Membership Award as founding co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summer Program. Dr. Murrin participates in public lectures and workshops, and is a Director on the board of Newfoundland Foray, Inc.

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