Thank you, Mr. Easter.
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for this opportunity to comment on the effects of the pandemic at Western and across our sector.
I want to thank the Government of Canada for its leadership in responding to the pandemic, and I'd like to thank my local community for its extraordinary efforts.
The substantial allocation made in support of post-secondary students has been impressive on a world scale, and the new research allocations are helping Canadian researchers contribute to global efforts. At Western, that support has been augmented by our own $2.6 million student relief fund, donated, in part, by our alumni, faculty and staff. We have assisted more than 3,400 Western students who were in immediate need—a surprising number.
In early March, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research invested new funds to fast-track a national response to COVID, and two of these pan-Canadian teams are led by Western faculty members. In late March, $1 million in federal funding was awarded to vaccine researchers at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, where our new level 3 biohazards lab is being put to very good use.
In April, the government launched CanCOVID, a network of health care professionals, university researchers and policy-makers united against the pandemic. Western faculty members play a leading role there, and we added $1 million of our own money to support COVID-related research and interdisciplinary projects on our campus.
Amidst all of these research projects, Western has also donated a significant amount of PPE to local hospitals. We've offered free accommodation to front-line health care workers and have designed, manufactured and given away for free thousands of face shields for hospital staff and more.
Looking ahead to September and beyond, we're working hard to ensure that our students are able to access the high-quality learning environment and transformative student experience they and their families expect of us. To achieve these goals, we're taking a number of steps. We're hiring a number of new Ph.D.-level instructional designers to help transition the courses. We're hiring 250 advanced Western students to help portage face-to-face courses into virtual online experiences. We're creating free online summer modules for first-year students to help them catch up academically and begin forming social networks and so forth. Importantly, we've also increased our undergraduate bursaries and scholarships by almost 45% to $44 million, and our graduate student support will rise to $60 million next year.
I would say that we've not been particularly surprised by the additional costs to the university's operating budget, but these additional costs are already in the multiple tens of millions of dollars and rising. Some of the new expenses are obvious—moving thousands of undergraduate courses online, for example—but other expenses are less obvious, such as the loss of meaningful amounts of ancillary revenue or the anticipated decline in private-sector research partnerships as the private sector itself contracts. Of course, the most important cost, the human cost, for all of us can't actually be calculated.
For this fall term, assuming public health regulations make it possible, we intend to operate in-person academic experiences for roughly 25% to 30% of our courses. The rest will be delivered almost entirely online. Assuming that we have government approval, our campus will be open.
So far, enrolments are holding strong, but with the effects of the pandemic still unfolding, the impact on enrolment will not be noted until the fall—for us or for any university—and it hangs over all Canadian universities. There is, of course, even more uncertainty around international enrolment. At Western, that number is just under 15%. In a post-pandemic world, with all of the crazy things going on and the new geopolitics, it is plausible to imagine Canada as an even greater beacon of hope and opportunity for international talent.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Western looks forward to responding to other global challenges that will affect Canadians, and climate change comes to mind. Western would strongly support a national infrastructure program addressing key global challenges, knowing that such investments would also help stimulate the economy here in southwest Ontario. The SIF project, for example, was a great success. We saw two nationally recognized buildings, which strengthened our ability for research and innovation.
We greatly appreciate the substantial investments already made by the Government of Canada. We also recognize that our efforts to advance the academic missions of Canada's great universities will have substantial additional costs as well. Our missions are robust, and they're fundamental to the well-being of the students and the communities we serve, but our missions are also vital to the health and the future of Canada itself.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to appear.