uOttawa steps up international game

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2015

uOttawa's airport welcome station September 2, 2015

By Brandon Gillet

In the past year, the University of Ottawa has shattered its goal of having international students make up 9% population, hitting 11%, and has raised its overall Destination 2020 goal to 15%, according to an April report by Professor Christian Detellier, former vice-president academic and provost.

Combining integration and retention after the recruitment process, the uOttawa International Office (UOINTL) and the Office of the Registrar’s Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) section have raised their game to show that our campus is the place to be for international students.

A major part of this year’s results comes from Francophone recruitment, led by International Liaison Officer Martin Robichaud of SEM. Robichaud travels to various countries in French Africa and Europe to meet with prospective students.

“The biggest drawing feature is the differential tuition fee exemption which was launched two years ago for students who want to study in French,” said Robichaud. “The exemption is designed to bring costs down to what (Canadian) students pay.”

The differential tuition fee exemption has opened the door to a lot more students coming to study at uOttawa. In France, uOttawa had been competing with Quebec universities, who have lower fees, but according to Robichaud, this year fees in Quebec for French students are going up to the same level as for out of province Canadian students.

“They’ll (French students in Quebec) be paying the same fees as other Canadian students, so for us, when we’re in France we’re the same price,” said Robichaud.

This year, he is going to North Africa three times to meet with students at different stages of the recruiting process, adding an admission presentation in between the recruitment and follow-up events. He hopes to increase the number of pre-registered international students and bolster the internationalization of the campus overall.

“We’re mirroring what Canada is looking like more and more,” Robichaud said. “You’re getting better profs, more opportunities for students, and classrooms are more diverse.”

He adds: “Whether it’s going abroad in the field or a class with 20% international students, uOttawa students want an international experience. We’re trying to get the campus to live that international experience.”


Getting new students to make the life-changing trip abroad to study at uOttawa is only half the battle, though. What happens when they get here? Integration becomes crucial to these new students in an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar faces.

Natalie Morris, an academic integration adviser with UOINTL, works hard with her team to make the transition as smooth as possible, offering activities like international student orientation as well as resources and workshops throughout the year.

“We’ve increased international orientation to three days running from Sept. 2 to 4 for undergrad students,” said Morris. “And we’ve separated the graduate students for the first time because they have different realities and needs.”

Morris’s job is to ease international students’ integration and ensure that students get information in timely fashion. This has been the main factor in changing the orientation and information sessions so much over the past two years.

“Presenting the right information at the right time is something we’re focusing on this year,” said Morris.

A new way of approaching the information sessions is to look at potential issues students may face rather than simply informing them about campus services.

“Instead of giving a presentation on what the services are, we present challenges and which service can best assist with that challenge,” said Morris.

In addition to the new initiatives, older successful programs like language workshops and the buddy program will continue.

Learn more about the uOttawa International Office (UOINTL).

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