Push for international students drives ambitious building plan
They filed into the opulent Hatley Castle last week — 50 students representing 15 countries, a group that underscores Royal Roads University’s aggressive new push to broaden the international flavour of the campus.
Over the next five years, RRU says it intends to significantly boost the number of international students studying at the Colwood-based heritage property. Where the university sees about 100 foreign students per year now, that could rise to 500 to 700 in the years to come, say RRU officials.
“We are changing focus to have more (students) on campus, including the number of international students,” said Thevi Pather, RRU director of international programs. “We want all our learners to be global citizens, to engage with students from a variety of cultures. We are actively recruiting students from all around the world.”
As part of that broader strategy, RRU has issued a request for expressions of interest around developing a series of four-storey residences on the campus.
The development would focus on lands near the front gate, and envisions a “village” with four residences and a dining hall, totalling 406 dorm rooms and 200 parking stalls for its first phase. The entire project has a potential build-out of 1,323 units in 14 buildings.
“It’s all part of the growth strategy of the university,” said Paul Corns, vice-president of community relations. “To offer meaningfully offer international education, you’ve got to ensure the resources are in place to attract the greatest number of international students.”
Since being established as a public university in 1995, Royal Roads educational model has focused largely on graduate programs for working professionals — much of which is done online as teams and buttressed with short residencies on campus.
But in the last few years RRU has branched out to more year-long undergraduate programs, where students attend classes each day similar to a traditional university.
Corns said RRU plans to introduce full four-year degree programs over the next three years.
Overall, the school is looking to have 1,400 students studying on campus, and a total full time student body of 4,000 by 2017, up from 2,500 now.
International students, who typically pay thousands of dollars more in tuition than Canadian students, will help fill those undergraduate seats.
Azeez Ogedengbe, a 26-year-old from Nigeria in the masters in global management program, said the accelerated one year program was key for him to apply to RRU.
“That most of the students are professionals, it seems like a great opportunity to meet a diverse group of people,” Ogedengbe said.
After going to university in Ontario for a few years, he said moving to Colwood was an easy decision. “It’s not a big adjustment, it’s a relaxed pace here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the weather. I’ll take the rain over snow any day.”
Royal Roads, originally set up to house cadets in close quarters as a military college, doesn’t have near the capacity to shelter hundreds of students. Until modern residences are built, most of the international students will live in home-stays in Langford and Colwood.
“Because we are a small, specialized university, we don’t have the required on-campus housing,” Pather said. “We’ve reached out into the community, we’re tapping into the community as a resource.”
Before RRU’s development plan — called the Uplands Village concept — sees the light of day, it needs a partner with deep pockets to outline a plan for financing, construction and operation of the residences.
The property owner, the Department of National Defence, also needs to weigh in.
“We need to make sure we do our due diligence with DND, with seeking approvals and that any development aligns with our overall sustainability plan,” Corns said.
People interested in hosting a student can contact www.canadahomestayinternational.com.