By Sarah Tomlinson
In spite of the challenges the pandemic has brought through online learning, Ryerson is on track to exceed its enrolment projections across all categories for 2021-22, Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said at Friday’s Board of Governors’ (BoG) meeting.
Lachemi said “large amounts” of new domestic and international students applied to Ryerson in 2020. Ryerson’s retention rate of existing students is much higher than in previous years and it received the highest number of domestic applications compared to other universities in Ontario, according to Lachemi.
However, the president said the market for international students remains more uncertain with the province currently in a second round of lockdowns.
“This would definitely present some challenges for international students and we are not unique in this. All universities are experiencing issues with a decrease in international applications,” he said
“We’ll continue to work hard and do our best to make sure that the progression of applications stays positive.”
As a result, Lachemi said Ryerson is considering other ways of providing international students with education. This February, Ryerson is set to have an official ceremony with Ontario’s minister of higher education to launch its new campus in Cairo, Egypt.
“Instead of just relying on international students coming here, we can also think about taking our programs elsewhere. We are currently discussing with some partners for establishing campuses around the world,” he said.
Here’s what else you missed at January’s BoG meeting:
According to Saeed Zolfaghari, interim provost and vice-president academic, Ryerson has already sent over 10,000 early acceptance offers to applicants—a 34 per cent increase since last year.
Continuous enrolment at the Chang School of Continuing Education grew for the first time in a fall term since 2017 by more than nine per cent. Part-time program course enrolment also grew by 14 per cent.
However, full-time undergraduate program enrollment at the Chang School of Continuing Education declined by eight per cent.
“This is likely a result of the faculties offering a similar remote delivery method as the Chang School and, therefore, decreasing differentiation,” Zolfaghari said.
Lachemi said Ryerson’s Bachelor of Commerce program, in the Ted Rogers School of Management, is ranked number one in Canada by Corporate Knights Magazine. The same magazine ranked the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree third in Canada and number eight globally.
Lachemi added that Info Source ranked Ryerson first for its growth in research income among comprehensive universities in Research Infosource Inc.’s annual list of the 50 top research universities in Canada. Research Infosource Inc. is an independent research, consulting and publishing firm that focuses on Canadian research and development.
The university’s research income increased by 63.5 per cent during the 2018-19 fiscal year.
“This is really a reflection of our research excellence,” Lachemi said.
The digital strategy project
In light of the pandemic, the Opportunities Working Group’s digital strategy project has shifted its focus from long-term changes—like IT governance, accessibility and supporting flexible work—to short term ones that ease the impact of the pandemic, according to Brian Lesser, Ryerson’s chief information officer.
The digital strategy project is one of four priority projects of the Opportunities Working Group, created in April 2020 to identify opportunities and key partnerships to advance the university in the context of the online challenges that the pandemic presents.
The group has been analyzing “digital moments”—when someone reflexively turns to an online feature to do something—in order to think about how online processes can be improved in the future.
“[Digital moments] can help us plan the introduction and integration of new systems and improvements in existing systems,” Lesser wrote in the BoG’s agenda.
Based on their analysis of digital moments, Lesser said the Ryerson community wants to reduce the number of times members have to re-enter the same data. In addition, they were encouraged to provide better information for IT decision-makers and more education for students and faculty on what learning systems like D2L can provide.
“People say, ‘I wish I could do this!’ and it turns out that you can. They’re just not aware that there’s a feature in the system available to them and so we’re looking at educational improvements to make sure people understand what to do,” he said.
Lesser said the project’s fall 2021 term actions will be an expansion of the library’s digital collections, as well as a management and security improvement of the Google Cloud Platform and Google Workspace. In addition, he said the group is trying to replace RyeCast with a more capable video capture and streaming service.
The group’s other areas of focus are IT governance, accessibility, supporting flexible work and cybersecurity.
On cybersecurity, Lesser said the university was the first to impose multi-factor authentication (MFA). Nevertheless, he said cybersecurity is still one of the university’s biggest concerns as Ryerson is constantly under attack through its security information management systems.
In a 2017 article for Ryerson Works, Lesser said Computing and Communications Services (CCS) detects approximately one million attempts to log in to Ryerson accounts by guessing passwords. These attempts come from over 3,000 computers in 103 countries.
“It’s been a major focus for the university. In 2017, cybersecurity awareness campaigns that we were doing every October became a very massive endeavour. We actually lead a benchmarking project with 92 colleges and universities participating, where we all look at our practices and try to improve and see how we can move forward,” he said.
David Porter, the chair of the finance committee, said the committee met on Jan. 20 where both Lachemi and Glen Craney, deputy provost and vice-provost for university planning, provided an introduction to the 2021-22 budget process.
According to the BoG agenda, the budget process will consult with Ryerson’s community through three open town halls and meetings with student board members, the Ryerson Students’ Union and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson before being approved in April.
Ryerson’s BoG election cycle
Ryerson recently started the 2021 BoG election cycle. Nominations open on Feb. 1 and close on Feb. 10 for students, staff, faculty and alumni. The elections procedure committee will meet on Feb. 11 to review the nominations, said secretary Julia Shin Doi.
The next BoG meeting will take place on March 30, 2021.