Mount Allison’s vice-president of finance has assured Sackville Town Council that the university has no plans to offer training in the skilled trades as a way of boosting student enrolment.
Robert Inglis was responding to a question from Deputy Mayor Joyce O’Neil during last Monday’s town council meeting.
“I was just wondering, did the university ever think of sort of changing, adding the concept to your education in, sort of like, trades?” O’Neil asked. “Say like maybe offering for plumbing and electrical, that type of stuff?”
O’Neil’s question seemed to catch Inglis by surprise.
“I think, uhm, I think we’ll, we have not,” he replied, then said that the university is already pursuing the concept of experiential learning.
“Obviously a trade is experiential learning,” Inglis said, but added that Mount Allison already offers a lot of it in its academic programs.
“Our science students just don’t learn science, they do science. Our commerce students do business and learn about business. Our arts and social sciences students engage in activities, not just learn about it,” he said.
Student numbers declining
O’Neil’s question came after Inglis made a 16-minute presentation to council in which he noted that New Brunswick’s four publicly funded universities depend on two main sources of income: provincial government grants and student tuition fees.
“All four universities have seen a decline in enrolment,” he said, with the numbers down from around 17,000 undergraduate students four years ago to about 15,500 now.
He added, however, that Mount Allison is holding its own when it comes to attracting first year students. This year’s enrolment of 641 is down slightly from previous years, but still within Mount Allison’s budget projections, he said.
Total enrolment at Mt. A. this year is around 2,150.
Inglis said that all universities in the Maritimes are affected by declining numbers of high school graduates. By next year, there will be 10 per cent fewer 18-24-year-olds in New Brunswick than there were in 2012.
However, he noted that students at Mt. A. come from a wide range of places, with 39 per cent from New Brunswick, 23 per cent from Nova Scotia, 29 per cent from the rest of Canada and nine per cent from between 30 and 40 countries around the world.