Open Letter to the Cape Breton Community

An open letter to the Cape Breton community, 

Cape Breton University is home to more than 6,000 students from more than 70 countries worldwide. Each semester, we are so proud to welcome new cohorts of Canadian and international students to our beautiful Island. These students enrich our Island with new cultural perspectives and experiences and contribute positively to our community in many ways. We value and appreciate the students we welcome to our campus each and every year, along with the spouses and children who often accompany them. These students become our neighbours, our colleagues and our friends, and many choose to stay here as CBRM residents even after they walk across the stage to graduate.

Our beautiful Island has managed decline for many years, and thanks to international students who choose to come to the CBRM, we are now managing growth. With growth comes many positives, but it also has its challenges. These challenges include affordable housing, which is a national issue, as well as unemployment, which has always challenged this region.

As we at CBU work through this growth, we have begun to implement a Strategic Enrolment Management Plan. This means determining the most appropriate number of students for our campus and offering the right mix of programs based on current demand.

We are committed to bringing in students from different countries to study here, and we remain committed to offering the exceptional student experience that CBU is known for, including reasonable class sizes. This also means changing application intake times and capping high-demand programs. This has already begun, but it will take time to see the changes occur as students move through their programs, many of which are two years in length, and graduate.

All travel and government visa processing was paused due to COVID-19. This meant many students who were accepted to CBU in 2020/21 could not travel to Canada and had to defer their enrolment. When restrictions were lifted, a double cohort of students began arriving on campus.

While we continue to work through these challenges and advocate to all levels of government for assistance, CBU provides all new students with information so they know what to expect when they arrive in Cape Breton. In CBU’s acceptance letters, we are clear that both on-campus and off-campus housing is limited and must be arranged prior to arrival in Canada. We are also clear that part-time employment opportunities are very limited, and as part of their Statement of Purpose, international students are required to demonstrate enough funds to live in Canada even without additional income. CBU uses a range of communication tactics to share this information, including in-person and online pre-departure information sessions, social media, face-to-face sessions and direct emails.

We are very aware of the narrative right now within the community, and we want to reassure you that we at CBU are always innovating and looking for solutions. We will continue to do so. As a post-secondary institution, we will continue to provide quality education and work with our partners, including the CBRM, to enhance the community experience.

In 2023, we will be making historic investments – new infrastructure, new academic programs and enhanced support for our students. We look forward to continuing to manage growth. We want to thank members of our community for embracing our students with open arms and continuing to make them feel at home in Cape Breton.


David Dingwall

President and Vice-Chancellor, Cape Breton University


1. In September of 2022, CBU welcomed 1,643 new students. Of that, 1,146 were international students, the rest were domestic, which includes local and the rest of Canada.

2. CBU is expecting a range from 350-1000 new students in January. This number is broad because there are a number of factors outside of our control that affects this. These factors include deferrals and add/drops and are highly affected by the government visa process.

3. CBU continues to advocate for affordable housing. While we have received support from the Province of Nova Scotia for our Tartan Downs Development Project, we continue to work with other levels of government and hope they will get involved in this community project that will benefit the Cape Breton Regional Municipality for generations to come.

4. CBU’s Student Affairs department, through Career Services, hosts job fairs, resume writing and interview preparation sessions throughout the year for students. We also have an active work-study program that provides on-campus work opportunities to students. There is a Student Job Opportunities section on our webpage that is consistently updated ( and also links out to other sites for job seeking.

5. CBU and Transit Cape Breton have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and work together to accommodate student needs. Most recently, Transit has increased routes and services, and CBU has subsidized bus passes in addition to purchasing two transit buses for the Transit Cape Breton fleet in the past.

6. To supplement transit services, starting in January 2023, CBU will offer free, daily shuttles between CBU, 500 George Street and Cineplex and continue to look at ways to assist students with travel throughout our community.

7. The Nancy Dingwall Health and Counselling Centre has a dedicated mental health nurse on staff and counselling services on-campus. The Nancy Dingwall Health and Counselling Centre also holds training sessions with faculty and staff on how to assist students in mental health distress. International students also have access to 24/7 mental health support through keep.meSAFE and their international student health insurance. Anyone in Nova Scotia can access a counselor 24/7 by calling 211.

8. There are currently approximately 70 beds available in residence for January 2023. These beds can be booked by visiting We have someone managing the housing phone line at 902-563-1656 throughout our closure with the exception of Christmas day.

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