Indigenous Students in BC





I was considering Indigenous student recruitment this week and I decided to check to see if we have data about where Indigenous students go to post-secondary, and because BC’s PS data system is pretty good, we do have that data. Take a look at it here. Here’s the highlights. FYI I’m using 2019 as the stable year because it is both pre-pandemic but still recent enough to be similar to today. We could do this again using 2022-23 data when it comes out in two years.

First, the average Indigenous student enrolment at a public PSI is 6%. That’s actually a good thing because Stats Can tells us that that is also the percentage of Indigenous people in BC. So we get a win there, in that Indigenous students are no longer underrepresented in postsecondary. The work of Indigenous PSI staff in this between recruitment, mentoring, and supporting initiatives off the side of their desk cannot be ignored. They have done amazing work to shift college’s and university’s perspectives on Indigenous students and remove barriers.

Now for where Indigenous students go. 19 public Post-Secondary Institutions make up 90% of Indigenous student enrolment, and all of the research universities are included in that group. Of course, that means that the other 7 institutions only make up 10% of provincial Indigenous student enrolment. Specifically I’d like to call out the abysmal recruitment of Langara College, especially because they used to have good Indigenous student recruitment, but their new numbers are under 2% Indigenous students while 30% of their students are International.

In student recruitment the students are often classified by Domestic Non-Indigenous, Domestic Indigenous, and International for better targeting of recruitment money. There is a lot more breakdown depending on the strategic enrolment management done by the institution. Because of that I’m looking at number and percentage of Indigenous and International students at the different PSIs to determine who’s doing what type of recruitment.

Top recruiters from a percentage standpoint are:

  • NVIT**
  • Coast Mountain*
  • College of New Caledonia
  • Northern Lights
  • UNBC*
  • North Island College*
  • Vancouver Island University

All of whom have more that 12% Indigenous students. Those starred also recruit more Indigenous students than International students, an important number, because the average institution recruits three times more International students than Indigenous students. NVIT gets special mention as the only institution that is majority-Indigenous.

The worst recruiters are:

  • Langara College*
  • SFU*
  • UBC*
  • Kwantlen Polytechnic*
  • Douglas College
  • Emily Carr

All of whom have 3% or fewer Indigenous students. Those starred recruit 10 times more International students than they do Indigenous students.

Now, percentages aren’t everything. Here are the Institutions with the largest Indigenous student populations:

  • Thompson Rivers University
  • JIBC
  • Vancouver Island University
  • Okanagan College
  • BCIT*
  • UBC*
  • College of New Caledonia
  • UVic*
  • NVIT
  • University of the Fraser Valley

UBC and BCIT both have poor Indigenous student recruitment and UVic has below average recruitment, but all three are such large institutions that they make this list anyway.

Thompson Rivers University is the single largest Indigenous student enroller at nearly 3000 students, but Justice Institute (JIBC) isn’t far behind. In fact when you add in VIU and Okanagan College you have 1/3 of the provincial Indigenous student enrolment.

Now to just call out the top universities for Indigenous student recruitment and worst recruitment.

Thompson Rivers University recruits the most Indigenous students, while University of Northern British Columbia and Vancouver Island University recruit the highest percentages of Indigenous students.

Simon Fraser University and University of British Columbia do the worst job of recruitment percentage wise, but SFU is the worse recruiter because they have fewer than 800 Indigenous students even though they’re the second largest university in the province.

So, I’ve talked about recruitment, but what should a good target for Indigenous students at a post-secondary institution be? You should be using the larger of two numbers. Either the provincial percentage of Indigenous people (6%) or regional percentage (7-9% depending on the region). That’s for starters. If you’re below that then you need to re-assess your recruitment. And just a note, that the percentages are for *total current* students, so recruitment means nothing if you don’t retain students. Also, once you’ve reached that percentage the next step is to look at what will make a difference to your community both inside the institution and to the regional community.

A quick idea here is to look at your percentage of Indigenous students compared to your percentage of International students. If you have parity with your region’s Indigenous students but many of them are still the only Indigenous student in their classes, that’s an issue. This could look like targeting somewhere between 1/2 as many or just as many Indigenous students as International students. And for 11 PSIs they’re already there (star means they are at or above parity with both regional population and International students):

  • NVIT*
  • Coast Mountain*
  • NIC*
  • JIBC*
  • College of Rockies*
  • UNBC*
  • VIU
  • Northern Lights
  • Okanagan
  • CNC
  • Camosun

Two universities have regional parity and are working on closer parity with International students (UFV and TRU) and two institutions are above provincial parity but not yet above regional parity (Selkirk College and UBC-O). The remaining 11 institutions are below provincial parity and need to do some serious work. Perhaps they need to call up those who seem to be doing this the best? For colleges that’s Coast Mountain College, College of New Caledonia, and North Island College. For universities that’s UNBC and Vancouver Island University.


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