Sheridan eyes India to lure budget-boosting tuitions

File: Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, president of Sheridan College, poses on campus. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

After signing new co-operation deals in China, Sheridan College is turning to India to develop closer ties and lure more students from the south Asian giant.

Sheridan president Jeff Zabudsky just returned from a weeklong trip to India to explore new partnerships, business relationships and expand Sheridan’s already rising enrolment of international students.

Indian, Chinese, Pakistani and other foreign students have been flocking to Sheridan campuses in Oakville, Brampton and Mississauga and pay far higher tuitions than Canadian students. That helps the college pay its bills in an era of restraint in education funding.

“It helps to globalize our institution, raise our profile around the world and it helps us to sustain our budgets as well,” Zabudsky told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “International students help to pay the freight.”

Sheridan attracts a large number of international students from India and the school’s satellite campus in Brampton – with 8,000 students – is in a city of about 550,000 people with more than a fifth of its population from India and Pakistan.

On his trip, Zabudsky heard from many media companies like Technicolour and Tata Elxsi that were eager to hire Sheridan grads. The Oakville-based college has long been world-renown for its animation program.

“They have a voracious appetite for animators,” he said, citing strong placement rates for students who chose to go back to India for work. “Any student that we would educate and graduate would be snapped up by the industry in India almost immediately.”

Sheridan’s pool of international students has more than quintupled in recent years. In 2008-2009 the college had 569 on student visas. In 2011-2012, that number grew to 3,296, or 579 per cent.  “And I’m told this year they’ll be higher than ever,” Zabudsky said.

Last month, Zabudsky  also spent several days in China and signed an academic co-operation deal with one of the country’s big engineering schools, Shenyan Instiutute of Engineering.

As well, he said plans for a four-year joint-degree program with Chengdu University of Information Technology are progressing.

With a few years of planning still to go, Sheridan has already determined these Chinese-Canadian joint-degree programs would have students spending two years studying in China and then two years in Canada at Sheridan.

Last week’s trip was Zabudsky’s first one to India as president of Sheridan. It was done in partnership with the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell and the city’s economic development commissioner Sohail Saeed.

Sheridan College, which now has 18,000 students overall, has been growing rapidly in recent years and Asians foreign students are becoming an increasingly important part of the student mix.

Sheridan started in 1967 in Oakville, where its Trafalgar Rd. campus now has about 8,500 students. It also recently set up a satellite campus near Square One in downtown Mississauga, which has grown to 2,000 students.

At its three campuses, the college teaches everything from animation and illustration, to music, theatre, film, applied computing, engineering, technology, business and liberal arts.

It hopes to begin granting university degrees within seven years.

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