Feds to double number of international students

Posted on January 15, 2014 in Education Policy Context

TheOttawaCitizem.com – News
January 15, 2014.   By Peter O’Neil, Postmedia News 

The federal government will outline plans Wednesday to double the number of international students in Canada by targeting China and other fast-growing countries, Postmedia News has learned.

It is the latest step in the government’s strategy to inject economic development into the heart of Canada’s foreign policy.

More diplomatic, visa-processing and marketing resources will be shifted to China, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Mexico, and the Middle East-North Africa region, including Turkey, in order to help recruit the world’s best and brightest, Trade Minister Ed Fast is to announce in Toronto.

The goal is to boost the number of international students and academic researchers to more than 450,000 by 2022, which translates into a huge cash injection for universities due in part to the lofty tuitions paid by non-Canadians.

And that will be done “without displacing Canadian students,” Fast is to assure an audience at Ryerson University.

Canadian full-time undergraduates paid on average $5,772 this year, or 3.3 per cent higher than 2012-13, according to Statistics Canada.

International students paid more than triple that amount, and the average $19,514 tuition fee they paid was 6.8 per cent higher than the previous year.

The federal strategy is to boost the number of Canadian jobs “sustained” by international students by 86,500, or double the current number, according to Ottawa’s calculations.

“International education is a key driver of jobs and prosperity in every region of Canada,” Fast is to say Wednesday.

Canada, according to a partial transcript of his prepared statement, is in a “fiercely competitive” battle with other countries, especially the U.S., Britain and Australia for international students.

The strategy will “help us advance Canada’s commercial interests in priority markets around the world and ensure that we maximize the people-to-people ties that help Canadian workers, businesses and world-class educational institutions achieve real success in the largest, most dynamic and fastest-growing economies in the world.”

The strategy includes an investment of $13 million over two years in Mitacs, a Vancouver-based national not-for-profit company that helps Canadian university students obtain placements in academic institutions in China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam.

Another $5 million a year, committed in the 2013 federal budget, will fund a “branding and marketing” campaign that will promote Canada as a destination for students seeking a high-quality education at a relatively low cost.

A branding effort is necessary, according to research, because foreigners typically first choose a country they want to study and potentially live in before they select a particular institution.

A 2012 study estimated that international students spent $8 billion a year on tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending — an amount greater than the total annual overseas sales of Canadian helicopters, airplanes and spacecraft.

Ontario and B.C. currently host two-thirds of all international students in Canada.

The report follows the recommendation of a separate 2012 report submitted by a panel headed by University of Western Ontario President Amit Chakma, a native of Bangladesh who obtained two graduate degrees in chemical engineering at the University of B.C. before obtaining positions at the University of Calgary, the University of Regina, and the University of Waterloo.

The panel also included Don Wright, then-president of the B.C. Institute of Technology, and Lorna Smith, director of international education at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

The 2012 advisory report said the expansion of international students will boost innovation in Canada, make Canadian students “citizens of the world,” create international alumni networks that will facilitate trade and investment, and help ease Canadian skilled labour shortages.

The Harper government has drawn both praise and criticism for realigning Canada’s foreign policy to put a far greater emphasis on trade, investment and the recruitment of skilled workers who can add to Canadian productivity.

One of the more controversial moves was to make the old Canadian International Development Agency a part of the expanded Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. Aid officials have been directed to put more emphasis on aid projects that support Canadian investments abroad, especially in the huge mining industry.

Critics have argued that the moves have de-emphasized matters like human rights and poverty alleviation.

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