McGill’s total enrolment for the 2018-19 school year is 41,286.

On Campus

China tops international enrolment at McGill for first time

For as long as anyone can remember, American students have made up the largest contingent of international students at McGill. That changed this year, with enrolment from China nabbing the No. 1 spot.

Story by Brenda Branswell

October 2018

For the first time in McGill’s history, students from China make up the largest contingent of international students.

American students have always held that distinction at McGill, but this year China jumped into the top spot.

Final fall enrolment numbers show 2864 students from China at McGill, followed by 2412 from the U.S. France rounds out the top three with 1886 students, while India is fourth with 736.

Given the trend line of enrolment from China the new order doesn’t come as a huge surprise. China surpassed France for the No. 2 spot in 2016, and narrowly lagged behind the U.S. last year.

“We’re experiencing globalization in higher education: more high school students are planning to attend university away from their home country. Chinese students are no exception and Canada is a very popular education destination,” says Jocelyne Younan, associate registrar, undergraduate recruitment in Enrolment Services.

McGill received 4,800 undergraduate applications from China for this fall and admitted 356 new students. “These are among the brightest students and they’re going to be very motivated to perform well,” Younan says.

Current enrolment from China marks a 174 per cent increase from 2013 when 1,045 students registered at McGill. (The numbers don’t include students from Hong Kong, which adds 38 students to this year’s tally.)

McGill’s total enrolment for the 2018-19 school year is 41,286.

McGill prides itself on its diverse enrolment with about 30 per cent of its students coming from more than 150 countries. Quebec students traditionally make up approximately 50 per cent of McGill’s enrolment while students from other provinces account for about 20 per cent.

Another noteworthy increase is enrolment from Turkey, which rose 20 per cent since last year. Enrolment figures show 284 students at McGill this fall.

U.S. enrolment is down 1 per cent from last year, but it has remained pretty steady over the years. Younan believes there are certain markets in the U.S. that will always remain a good source of students for McGill. The U.S. northeast – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts – and Philadelphia, D.C. and California “are all really good steady markets.” These regions have a strong alumni presence and they help promote McGill, Younan notes.

“The new markets we’re exploring are more mid-west,” she adds, mentioning the Chicago area and Ohio. “We’re starting to see interest there.”

McGill recruiters take different approaches. For example, they go to India with colleagues from the University of Toronto and UBC and stage a ‘top Canadian schools visit India’ information session. In September, Younan participated in fairs and visited high schools in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, a new market for McGill.

In China, McGill mainly goes solo, visiting schools in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Recruitment staff plan to visit China next spring where they will concentrate on yield activities, turning offers of admission to McGill into actual confirmations.

“Our presence in the spring is to focus on those students that have been admitted,” Younan explains. McGill staff meet with prospective students and their families to answer their questions about the University.

“We spend time there also visiting the schools where we get a lot of interest. And every time we put on an event we have to basically close the doors because the room is full.”

They invite recent graduates to some events to talk about their experiences at McGill. “They often steal the show,” Younan says.

“This is where recruiters step back and let the alumni talk. Most of the families and the future students ask them questions and then they start talking in Mandarin among themselves and it’s perfect. It’s great to have the alumni representation at our events because they’re our best ambassadors.”

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