Both international and domestic students were left reeling by the cuts, which were announced in April. And there are concerns that the moves will damage the university’s reputation and make it difficult to attract new international students.
The institution’s chancellor Steve Paikin has also said that he resigned around the time the cuts were announced on April 12.
On February 1 the university announced it was restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act due to “unprecedented financial challenges”. Laurentian has C$321.8 million in liabilities, according to a report filed by Ernst and Young, the monitoring organisation in the case.
The positions cut include 110 faculty, 41 support staff and 36 in administration.
Recent graduate Monseguela Thes from the Ivory Coast said he doubted that international students will apply to the school in future. He told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “I don’t think people would feel free to come to Laurentian. It would be very difficult.”
Almost all Canadian post-secondary institutions are using remote learning models during the pandemic – therefore, many international students have returned home. Laurentian has about 600 international students. The question is: Will they return to campus post-covid or find alternative schools?
Eric Chappelle, the president of the Students’ General Association at Laurentian, said it’s a big unknown. “International students have access to a larger market [than domestic students] and there has been some reputational damage,” he told The PIE News.
“There is a huge risk that this could have a negative impact on international student recruitment”
“The biggest challenge right now is uncertainty with the university,” Chappelle argued. “There is a huge risk that this could have a negative impact on international student recruitment.”
Chappelle said that domestic students bore the brunt of the program cuts. International students tend to enroll in high-enrolment majors such as business, engineering and economics, which were left largely unscathed. Archeology, music and environmental science were some of the programs that were eliminated.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario highlighted that French courses represent the major proportion of program cuts and French language students are being “targeted”.
“Laurentian University is one of the most significant Francophone institutions in the province. Francophone students are being told that their education, language, and culture aren’t worth saving,” the organisation, representing over 350,000 college and university students in Ontario, stated.
“This government has time and time again shown that Francophone students and the services they rely on are the first to be cut.”
Under a new union agreement, Laurentian faculty have agreed to take a 5% pay cut. Administrators will face the same trimming of their salaries.
The university did not respond to requests for information about whether positions were slashed in international recruitment and student services.
Chappelle added that there is light at the end of the tunnel. “The majority of the tough conversation is over and we’ve done most of the steps to get there.”
He acknowledged that the reputational hit may hurt international student recruitment for the next couple of years. “However, we should be able to attract international students over the long term,” he argued.