Report calls for increase in foreign students

In an attempt to increase innovation, the federal government is urging Canadian universities to double the number of international students studying in Canada. University of Western Ontario president Amit Chakma recently conducted a report that stated that Canadian universities would improve if the number of international students increased exponentially in the next ten years.

“The latest statistics show that there are 100,000 international students from more than 200 countries studying at Canada’s universities — that’s four times more than in 1995,” said Brad Mackay, communications officer for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). “These students are attracted by our reputation for high-quality education, diverse opportunities and a safe and welcoming environment.”

To attract more international students to Canadian universities, the report recommends federal funding for new scholarships for intercontinental undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral associates, and for the creation of a new Council on International Education and Research. Consisting of senior government officials and stakeholders, the report will put forward a procedural recommendation to the federal government.

“It also calls for a major new program for Canadian student mobility abroad, recommending the creation of opportunities for 50,000 more Canadian students to study abroad each year by 2022,” MacKay shared. “These types of international experiences are enriching and help foster the development of the kind of global citizens that Canadian employers are looking for.”

In addition, Canadian universities are also investing significantly in international education, such as marketing advertisements and scholarships to appeal to international students and researchers, as well as funding to support Canadian students who are studying abroad and investments in international research collaboration. Deborah MacLatchy, the vice president: academic at Wilfrid Laurier University, agrees that the presence of international students will have a positive impact on domestic students.

She believes that the presence of international students allows domestic students to experience different cultures and perspectives, thus exposing them to a variety of topics from all over the world.

“Canada needs to be innovative and competitive and we want to attract the best and the brightest,” MacLatchy said. “And the best way is to attract them is while they are students as they come to appreciate what Canada had to offer.”

Laurier, along with many other Canadian universities, are implementing initatives to attract more international students. It also, as MacLatchy shared, has an international office, which thrives to support international students upon their arrival. MacLatchy also said that the international office is looking for different ways to support the international students.

“Although we support students very strongly when they first get here, we want to make sure that international students have the support and the cultural knowledge,” MacLatchy explained. Zach Dayler, the national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), aims to advocate to the government that education should be accessible not only for domestic students, but for any student wishing to come to study in Canada as well.

“It is a balancing act, because we can’t necessarily take opportunities away from students in Canada,” Dayler said. “So you have to find that right balance.”

Although there are skeptics who fear that international students will rob domestic students of job opportunities, Dayler argues differently.

“With the baby boomers retiring and we’re not having as many children as our parents did and there is going to be a labour shortage in a variety of aspects of skills,” Dayler explained. “I think there are enough jobs on the horizon.”

International students account for nearly $8 billion in spending, which is more than the value of a number of important industries. This also creates an impressive estimation of 81,000 jobs in Canada. According to the report, international students will be fundamental to Canadian universities, as their attendance will help improve labour market shortages.

“The presence of international students also helps Canada economically, by helping us meet our workforce needs, driving growth in our economy, and helping position Canada as an international leader in research and innovation,” MacKay concluded.

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