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McMaster second Ontario university to cut undergrad enrolment

A second major Ontario university recently declared its intention to cap its undergraduate population, which has grown considerably in the last few years.

According to a report in the Hamilton Spectator, McMaster University will accept slightly less than 5,000 new students this fall. It is the first step in a four-year plan to cut total undergraduate enrolment by 3.5 per cent.

When the double cohort of Ontario high-school students entered university in the fall of 2003, enrolment spiked across the province. At McMaster, it rose 22 per cent in just four years and the university is now adjusting accordingly.

McMaster is not the first school talking about rolling back skyrocketing undergrad enrolment. In late April, University of Toronto President David Naylor told an interviewer that his goal was a downtown campus with fewer undergrads but far more grads. The Spectator did not inquire about the future of graduate studies at Mac. Great Toronto Area university presidents earlier this year described existing campuses as strained, and pushed the provincial government to ease the pressure by creating another undergraduate-focussed university or campus in or near the city, to accommodate the region’s growing population.

The Spectator article alludes to one factor that might have played a role in McMaster’s decision: the neighbourhoods around the school are as pressed for space as the main campus. At least one group called for lower enrolment as long ago as last August.

On its website, the Ainslie Wood/Westdale Community Association of Resident Homeowners (AWWCA) cites “problems with traffic, parking, rental housing, and alcohol consumption” as issues that “can be connected to the uncontrolled increases in undergraduate enrolment” at McMaster. The AWWCA called for the development of a carrying capacity for the school.

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