The University of Alberta released on Tuesday a 10-year plan that lays out strategies to boost enrolment and improve its position in international rankings.
The university said it wants enrolment to grow from 44,000 in 2023 to 60,000 in the next decade — a 35 per cent increase.
“This represents an additional 16,000 students — 6,000 of whom will be international students,” said university president Bill Flanagan.
“We’re attracting enormously talented students from around the world to come and study in Alberta, many of whom will stay in Alberta when they graduate, contributing to a growing and diverse population,” he said.
Flanagan said applications at the U of A are already up 20 per cent in the last five years.
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Housing shortages is a topic of hot discussion across the country right now and Flanagan said student housing will be a priority for these new students.
“In order to grow our enrolment, we’ll have to be very thoughtful about our residences and, in particular, for first-year students and international students,” he said, adding those two groups get a guaranteed spot in residence if they want it.
This increase in enrolment could generate $400 million a year in revenue, which would be invested in hiring faculty and staff, but Flanagan said more investment would be needed.
“Tuition won’t cover the cost of educating these additional students, so we need to partner with the government of Alberta to secure the funding to permit growth of this scale,” he said.
Flanagan added the province has funded enrolment growth over the last two years and the university is looking for a contribution of about $140 million annually to keep the ball rolling.
Christian Fotang, president of the University of Alberta Students Union, said students are concerned about the quality of education and services like clinical and mental health support being affected.
“I want to make sure the quality I got (as a student) gets maintained and is increased in the future,” he said.
“If (the university) wants to achieve that growth — which is ambitious and we’re here to support — we have to make sure that the services and support are there for them.”
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The university placed 91st in the world and fourth in the country in the Academic Ranking of World University this year and it said by 2033, it hopes to rank among the top 50 research universities in the world and among the top three in Canada.
While the university said it is already a global leader in the areas of artificial intelligence, health, well-being, energy and the environment, it hopes to continue prioritizing research in those fields.
There will be a new class on artificial intelligence available to undergraduate students, according to Dr. Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, dean and vice provost of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences.
“We’re also planning a cluster hire of over 20 faculty members that are experts not only in artificial intelligence, but the disciplines that artificial intelligence intersects with — such as health, energy, space, science and engineering, Indigenous health, robotics and automation,” she said.
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The plan also notes three areas the university could become a leader in by 2033: Indigenous research, agriculture and food, and social transformations.
Kalcounis-Ruepell said next fall’s incoming group of environmental science and conservation students contains one of the largest groups of Indigenous students at the post-secondary institution.
“There will be an intersection of our areas of excellence like climate, environment, health and wellbeing with the Indigenous students that are going to be the future leaders in those disciplines after they graduate and go on on their career journey,” she said.
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