The top business students coming out of high school will be able to enrol directly in University of Manitoba's commerce program this fall -- and at least five more faculties will follow in September of 2012.
"We'll attract one-third to one-half of our students through direct admission," said Glenn Feltham, dean of the I.H. Asper School of Business.
U of M president David Barnard said deans and department heads have recognized their best prospective students are also getting accepted by other universities, who offer direct entry into the students' major in first year.
Most U of M students choose a major for second year, after completing University 1 -- their first year, in which students must choose among a range of arts and science courses.
Only a small handful of faculties such as engineering, music and fine arts has previously offered direct admission in first year.
Barnard said the new policy arose from a review of University 1's first 10 years. It is a strong program which will continue, and every first-year student will continue to take courses within the University 1 program, he said -- the difference will be that the top high school students, who know what they want to study, will be certain they have a place in the faculty of their choice.
"People aren't necessarily saying they're losing students," said Barnard, who said there is still plenty of time for additional faculties and programs to request direct entry for the fall of 2012. "I wouldn't be surprised if others come forward."
But Feltham said business has definitely been losing top students to business schools such as Queen's, McGill and British Columbia.
Feltham said that the University of Alberta is the only other large business school in Canada which prevents students from declaring and entering their major until second year.
"How do we provide some level of certainty for the best and the brightest students, who could go to other business schools?" said Feltham. "If they leave, chances are they aren't coming back.
"We want to send out a message to the best and brightest -- there is a place for you here."
Barnard said that University 1 allows students the time to decide what they want to study, whereas some universities force students to declare a major in the last few months of Grade 12.
Qualified students who don't choose until second year will still have a place in their major, Barnard said. "All of the programs will still have places. We have committed that not all of the places will be allocated," he said.
Feltham said that first-year commerce students would still face the same course requirements as other University 1 students, but would know they were already members of the business faculty and could take part in co-op, career development and other business school programs and activities from the moment they enrol.
Business students need the liberal arts base which University-1 provides, said Feltham: "I'm a very strong believer in the concept of University 1."
Feltham said that many students need that first year to figure out what they want to do, so there would still be places for them to join the Asper school in second year.
If more qualified students seek to enrol in business in second year than there were spaces, the university would have to look at expanding the program, he said.