“We have an incredible opportunity to remain a top education destination and position the university sector for the bold vision we have for our province,” said Brian Wong, Nova Scotia’s minister of advanced education, as he announced the plans.
“These agreements take a student-centred approach and recognise the unique differences of each university. We have built in several accountability measures tied to student housing, healthcare training and planning for a more sustainable and successful future.”
The 2024/25 agreements include a 2% cap on tuition increases for all Nova Scotian undergraduate students, compared to the 3% cap outlined under the previous agreement.
Meanwhile, a minimum tuition increase of 9% will be introduced for first-year international undergraduate students, with the exception of two universities – Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College – who are exempt because of an increase in the previous year.
All 10 of the province’s institutions will also be required to develop international student sustainability plans outlining how students will be recruited, housed and connected to the labour market.
Universities in Halifax and Cape Breton will be required to begin to increase student housing. The Nova Scotia government said these are areas where student housing needs are highest.
Speaking at a press conference on February 2, Wong said that institutions must be held accountable for the “significant government funding, public dollars they receive”.
“We are in a period of unprecedented work force demand. We have a housing crisis. We have immigration. We need to solve those problems,” he added.
However, the news has not been received well by senior university leaders, with one group – the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents – speaking out against the plans after being left out of consultations.
In an open letter, CONSUP described the news as “extraordinarily distressing”.
“On behalf of all university presidents, I express our disappointment that we had no opportunity to contribute to the development of the funding plan after being led to believe there would be a consultation or negotiation process,” said David C. Dingwall, CONSUP chair and president of Cape Breton University.
“The minister decided on an approach that undermines any sense of partnership, collaboration or vision for the future of one of the province’s most strategically important sectors,” Dingwall continued.
“The one-year plan as presented creates unnecessary financial hardship for many universities”
“The one-year plan as presented creates unnecessary financial hardship for many universities,” he said.
“It disregards the substantial contribution our universities make to the economic, social and cultural development of communities across the province.”
Dingwall said there are many aspects of the announcement that require “greater clarity”.
“We remain hopeful that minister Wong will engage in a collaborative process that enables universities to better understand government’s intentions and expectations and, at the same time, allow department officials to better understand the unintended consequences of its plan.”
The CONSUP letter highlighted that within two weeks, Nova Scotia’s universities have been dealt “two serious blows”.
The first being the federal government’s announcement of a cap on new international student-visa permits – a move it said will potentially cost Nova Scotia’s universities many millions of dollars in lost revenue, while damaging its reputation as an education destination.
Coupled with this latest provincial government announcement, CONSUP said “both levels of government have created an elevated level of uncertainty across Nova Scotia’s university sector”.
In 2022/23, Nova Scotia universities had a total of 12,212 international students, 25% of total university enrolment.
The plans also provide a 2% increase in annual operating grants for most universities, up from 1%. However, some of this will be held back until universities achieve specific targets within their agreements.
Nova Scotia’s government said that each university is also expected to develop proposals for 2025 to 2028 that outline how they will advance government priorities such as healthcare, housing and supporting labour market needs, adding that this will inform longer-term agreements between the province and universities, to be finalised in the coming year.