With international student enrolment up, more students than ever before are registering at Western University's English language centre.
The Western English Language Centre's job is to ensure that students' English skills meet university standards before they start their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Since its inception, the WELC has increased its enrolment from 98 students in 2013 to 435 in 2016, according to Matt Bazely, a director at the centre.
“We’ve had double digit growth over the [last] five years,” said Bazely. “This was our biggest year to date in over five years, so there’s no reason to think that we’re going to shrink at all over the next few.”
Bazely explained that students enrolled in the English programs at the WELC are on a conditional admission. At Western, admission is based on academic strength and proven English proficiency. For students whose first language isn't English, applicants are required to write one of eight acceptable English language proficiency tests, such as the academic English program or English boost program offered by WELC. As long as the international students complete a WELC program successfully, they will be officially admitted to Western.
Now a first-year master of nursing student, Ohud Banjar said the WELC gave her valuable guidance when she first arrived in Canada in 2016.
"They gave me confidence, they gave me support and they were always there when I needed them," said Banjar. "If I had a problem, they always listened to me."
Originally from Saudi Arabia, Banjar was enrolled in the WELC program for eight months. Based on her experiences so far, Banjar said she likes the diversity of students at Western and in London.
Depending on the student’s initial level of proficiency, WELC's language programs can be anywhere from nine weeks to 12 months long.
Bazely added that the WELC helps Western meet their goal of enrolling a certain number of international students each year.
“The university capacity is nice and high,” said Bazely. “But in other spaces, for example in engineering and BMOS, we are given a quota by the university … There are caps in some of these high-demand programs.”
Overall, international student enrolment is increasing at Western. In 2016, Western had an international student population of about 10 per cent, which has doubled from approximately 5 per cent in 2010. This September, Western welcomed an incoming class of 5,100 international first-year students. A university senate report stated the international student population now makes up more than 10 per cent of the overall student population at Western. Most of these international students are from China, India, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic.
Although Western is seeing high enrolment in international students, Bazely said he also sees a trend of students needing less English as a second language support. As host countries are providing better English instruction to prepare their students for study abroad, the WELC has seen students complete their English training programs in less time.
Bazely believes that Western’s world rankings play a big role in international student recruitment. Western’s campus life, residences and student services are also some of the features that often attract the eye of prospective international students.