CBU is an an essential component of the socio-economic fabric of our region, says guest columnist.
Cape Breton University an essential component of the socio-economic fabric of our region
Those who know me will tell you that I’m a tireless advocate for Cape Breton or Unama’ki.
Whether it’s working to highlight our island as a tourism destination, spreading the good news of the success of my home community of Membertou or leading the crusade to stem the exodus of our people, to help guide and steer our political and economic future, and to reignite the prospect of Cape Breton Island becoming Canada’s 11th province – I’m a dedicated and willing defender of Cape Breton and I believe deeply in its future.
And while I’m often a vocal devil’s advocate in my calls for changes to better the lot in life for all Cape Bretoners, I’m eager to remind Cape Bretoners of a significant and growing economic driver here on our island that’s attracting a good deal of attention – and that’s our own Cape Breton University (CBU).
The university ranks among the highest in Canada for student satisfaction. In fact, in 2013, Maclean’s magazine ranked them as having the highest senior year level of student satisfaction, noted as being “excellent” CBU also has some of the highest academic achievers, with Nova Scotia’s highest percentage of students with high school averages of 95+.
But there’s more to the story. CBU is morphing from a midsized
regional facility with a stellar reputation for serving the local region into a truly globally competitive institution.
It’s important to note that CBU is a significant hub in terms of employment, as well as economic, academic, cultural and sport activity for our region. The university employs close to 1,000 people and has an operating economy with expenditures of over $60 million annually.
What’s more, when one considers the impact of CBU’s operations and related activities, it’s not surprising that almost five per cent of the region’s fulltime jobs relate to its operations and spinoffs thereof.
Its location in Nova Scotia’s second largest urban centre makes it accessible to both our region’s urban and rural communities, which I should note also includes five Mi’kmaw First Nation communities. It’s become an economic development driver and a key player in Nova Scotia’s pursuit of innovation through the Shannon School of Business and the Verschurn Centre.
Unama’ki College is a key part of CBU – which has become the school of choice for Atlantic Canada’s Aboriginal students for over 30 years, with the Mi’kmaw Studies discipline offering over 25 different courses. Given this, it’s no wonder that it’s currently the home away from home for more than 250 Indigenous students and features an alumni of nearly 500 graduates.
I’m a dedicated and willing defender of Cape Breton and I believe deeply in its future.
Senator Dan Christmas
In respect of the growing international cohort, the numbers are quite compelling. In the face of losses in local enrolment due to the demographic decline I often speak of, the enrolment of international students has increased steadily, rising from two per cent of total enrolment nearly two decades ago to almost 34 per cent of current enrolment.
The encouraging news about this is that according to the university’s own estimate forecasts international students will soon outnumber those from Cape Breton.
This is key to the ongoing economic viability of the university and in turn makes it especially crucial to the local economy. The same period that saw the international cohort thrive also saw a decrease in the number of Cape Breton students decline to below 40 per cent, a decline of almost 1,000 students.
What’s also key is to recognize the role of Nova Scotia universities play in the province’s community fabric.
Faculty and staff earn wages and salaries, there’s positive impacts on the businesses serving the institution – to say nothing of the benefits of an educated workplace commanding higher wages and the downline benefits to having a highly-educated and specialized workforce – which attracts business to the area and which can also be instrumental in making cultural contributions to the local community.
So while I continue to call for greater dialogue and collective effort as we seek to deal with the looming demographic implications for our island, we need to remind ourselves that there remain bastions of positivity and good news in our community that are surely worthy of promotion and celebration in the face of their efforts to redefine themselves.
Cape Breton University is an essential component of the socioeconomic fabric of our region and we need to tell our province, the rest of Canada and indeed the world at large that we’re here to play an important role in the future for our community and for those who choose CBU as their gateway to the future.
Cape Breton University employs close to 1,000 people and has an operating economy with expenditures of over $60 million annually.