Nova Scotia can welcome international students in November

·3 min read

Nova Scotia universities are getting ready to welcome back international students who have been kept away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a release from the province Tuesday, almost two dozen institutions can start accepting international students in early November with extra health precautions in place.

Robert Summerby-Murray, president of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said the move is "really exciting" for SMU and the rest of the approved schools.

"International students bring a tremendous vibrancy, of course," he said.

"By bringing students from around the world to Nova Scotia, we're helping to build the Nova Scotia economy, we're creating change in our culture and society, and that's particularly important."

N.S. schools to be announced next week

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada keeps a list of learning institutions that can receive international students.

Nova Scotia schools are expected to be included when the list is updated on Nov. 3.

Although this first semester has been completely online, Saint Mary's is moving to a hybrid learning model this winter where students can attend more classes and lectures on campus depending on their year and program.

"Being here is a key part, of course, for international students to come and experience the Canadian way of life, even if they are going to arrive on the first of January," said Summerby-Murray.

Jean LaRoche/CBC
Jean LaRoche/CBC

All post-secondary schools have to follow public health guidelines including ensuring students arriving from another country quarantine for 14 days, as well as providing accommodations, transportation and meals during quarantine.

Summerby-Murray said Saint Mary's has space in residences and off-campus housing ready for international students, while certain hotels may also be an option.

The number of international students continuing their studies online at Saint Mary's this year has not changed during the pandemic, said Summerby-Murray.

However, he said the number of first-year students from outside Canada is down "quite considerably." Many have deferred their start dates to January rather than begin online.

Some schools using hotels for quarantine

Dalhousie University in Halifax expects to see at least 250 international students come back to Nova Scotia between now and Jan. 31, 2021.

Janet Bryson, a spokesperson for Dalhousie, said the school's plan to welcome those students back has been approved by the provincial Department of Advanced Education.

Most of the students are already enrolled online.

Upon arriving in Halifax, students will be quarantined for 14 days at a hotel approved by the university. Lodging and meals during quarantine are expected to cost between $1,800 and $2,000, said Bryson.

The hotel and transportation from the airport must be prebooked by an adviser at Dalhousie's International Centre.

Last year, the province said Nova Scotia welcomed more than 12,000 international post-secondary students from more than 150 countries.

Missing out on international students has been especially hard for Cape Breton University (CBU), which has seen a huge spike in international enrolment in recent years.

Last month, university president David Dingwall told CBC his school had lost $16.6 million in revenue as of Aug. 31 due to lower enrolment numbers and the "significant" loss of international students.

A spokesperson said Wednesday the school is working with the province and community partners to design a plan that will allow international students to travel to Cape Breton to continue their studies online.

A committee has been set up to oversee procedures and protocols, including students' 14-day quarantine at a CBU "designated location."