On Campus

Mulling the impact of population decline

From University World News:

European academics are preparing to gather at a high-level conference to discuss the problems caused to higher education by a sharp decline in the European population. The debates at the European University Association [EUA] conference come as the latest figures from the European Union statistical agency Eurostat confirm the number of young people in European countries is already shrinking and will get smaller.

Announcing that from 2015, births would start to be outnumbered by deaths across the EU for the first time since the industrial revolution, Eurostat warned that some countries would face sharp falls in numbers of citizens, coupled with a significant aging of their population profiles.

The impact on higher education institutions is as yet unclear but the risk that countries may need to increase tertiary education participation rates within their populations to avoid a growth in redundant facilities will be discussed at the EUA conference.

We are basically in the same sinking population boat as the Europeans. Over next 20-odd years Canada is projected to experience one of the largest increases in the ratio of the elderly to the working-age population among G-7 countries.

Enrollment projections suggest that the rate of increase in overall post-secondary enrollments in Canada is either headed for a serious leveling off or on a path of precipitous decline. Mind you, we could possibly avoid both of these scenarios if we use our ingenuity to address the consequences of the demographic aging process.

Looking for more?

Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.