Some seats will be empty when Vancouver Island University classes start in September, due to a labour dispute affecting visa applications half way around the world.
A strike by foreign workers has brought work to a standstill at numerous Canadian embassies around the world.
VIU draws a disproportional amount of income from international students.
The strike has impacted applications filed since early July. So far, only a handful of students have notified the university they will not make it in September, but it could be the tip of the iceberg.
"We've had a dozen or so students, from many countries, have told us they can't get here in time for the beginning of classes," said Graham Pike, VIU's dean of international education.
"We don't know how many students will show up until the beginning of classes."
Last year, international student tuition accounted for $17 million of the university's $124-million total budget. They pay three times the tuition of domestic students, since the institution is publicly funded.
"Any losses to that, obviously, the impacts will be felt by the institution."
The economic impact will affect the community, too. Landlords rent suites to international students, and while they're here, they spend money on clothes and other goods.
"The spending by students in the community is quite significant. It's not just revenue to VIU, it's economically advantageous to the community, so if we lose that, the community loses as well."
Embassy staff and foreign visa processing centre employees have been on strike over pay and working conditions since the start of the summer.
"The strike's been going on for some time, and as it gets closer to September, it gets more critical," Pike said.
"Those who applied early should be fine. It's the ones who maybe had late applications, and took their time to apply that may be in trouble."
VIU's main revenue sources are grants and contracts from the provincial government, for 43.5 per cent of the university's annual budget, and student fees, which account for 37.8 per cent.
While VIU budgeted for a twoper cent tuition increase this fall, international student fees will rise 5.7 per cent.
Pike worries most about the long-term effects of a protracted strike.
"If students perceive that it's difficult to get a visa to come to Canada, they're going to go to Australia, the U.K. or U.S.A."
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