Community notices

Demand for education at SFU remains strong in the pandemic

October 20, 2020

By Braden McMillan

Simon Fraser University’s final fall enrolment figures reveal total undergraduate enrolment is up 1.1 per cent over fall 2019.

These strong enrolment numbers reflect continued demand for a quality education, even during a time of global and economic uncertainty. Undergraduate international student enrolment increased by 2.4 per cent, with more than a 25 per cent increase in new international students.

And while graduate student enrolment decreased slightly by 1.4 per cent over last fall, the vast majority of this decrease was seen in diploma and certificate programs. The number of master’s students remained on par with last fall, and the number of doctoral students increased by 2.1 per cent.

Overall, 23,530 domestic students and 6,932 international students have enrolled for the fall term at SFU, a year-over-year increase of 0.6 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.

“SFU is pleased to continue welcoming students from across Canada and from around the world this fall as we provide students who attend SFU with the best possible education experience during this time,” said Rummana Khan Hemani, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Students & International. “COVID-19 has certainly presented challenges, especially for many of our students who may face financial and mental health struggles during this time, but we have worked hard to provide the tools and resources they need to be successful and we continue to seek ways to improve the overall learning environment.”

For most SFU students, studying from home or remotely has become the new normal. As many instructors adopt asynchronous course delivery methods, overall course registrations have also seen an increase of 2.3 per cent, driven in part by students taking higher course loads.

Third-year undergrad Monica Lambatin, who is majoring in biology with a minor in dialogue, acknowledges that remote learning involves many trade-offs. Yet, she says, “I really value being able to watch my lectures and do my readings on my own time, which you normally don’t have the luxury of doing with in-person instruction. I have so much time in my day now because I don’t have to commute, or stay on campus.”

A resilient community at work

For the fall term, new incoming SFU students have been enrolled in a new virtual engagement program called HIVE - Your Home for Interactive Virtual Engagement. The program places students into small groups with fellow students that share things in common, such as course enrolments, time zones or perhaps personal interests. Each group is facilitated by a continuing student who helps ensure the HIVE provides a fun, safe and inclusive space for students to virtually build connections with their peers.

“We don’t take it lightly that our students have chosen SFU to pursue their educational goals.” said Hemani. “They have shown incredible resilience, as have our faculty and staff, as we adapt to the distinct needs of our community to ensure safety and well-being.”

There has been a strong focus on keeping our community physically and mentally healthy. Health and Counselling Services also continues to offer in-person and online services, while renewing the My SSP program, which provides virtual and in-person mental health supports, for another three years.

Nearly every SFU service has successfully adapted to provide online or remote services, in addition to in-person services where and when it is safe to do so. This includes the bookstore’s transition to provide books online, resulting in significant savings compared to the purchase of physical copies; where hard copies are needed, those are now delivered.

SFU staff have continued to maintain a safe campus living and learning environment, enabling essential on-campus activities to proceed, such as  COVID-19 research, a very limited number of on-campus classes/labs and other efforts to support the broader community. A campus safety ambassador program is now in operation to visit commonly used areas of campus to help answer questions and remind visitors to follow safety procedures while in-person.

And while some of our international students are pursuing their courses from outside of Canada this fall, many are here in the lower mainland with us. Just under 700 students are living in SFU student residence this fall, which is approximately 40% of regular occupancy.