Opinion

Muskens: Competition tough to attract foreign students to Canada

Last month the provincial government released its international education strategy.

Its goal is to increase the two-way flow between international students attending B.C. education institutions as well as increasing B.C. post-secondary students’ opportunities to study abroad.

Most post-secondary institutions offer exchange programs where B.C. students can complete a semester or more at an institution outside of Canada.

For example, at Okanagan College our business students can apply to study at 17 different post-secondary institutions in Asia, Europe, North and Central America and Australia.

These programs allow students to transfer credit back to their Okanagan College credential.

Most of the public post-secondary institutions in B.C. encourage students, if possible, to complete at least one semester abroad to increase their international experience.

The other part of the International Education strategy includes increasing the number of international students attending B.C. post-secondary institutions.

There are two main reasons why the B.C. government wants to see international student enrolments increase.

The first is the amount of economic activity they generate. In 2010, international students spent $1.8 billion on tuition, accommodation and other living expenses, which created about 22,000 jobs and generated $66 million in provincial government revenue.

Tuition for international students is usually triple what a Canadian student would pay which allows colleges and universities to use this funding to create more seats for our students.

According to their data, they expect that B.C. will gain an estimated 1,800 jobs and $100 million in GDP for every 10 per cent increase in the number of international students arriving in B.C.

As the developing world begins to gain ground it is estimated that on a global level the number of international students, which is currently 3.3 million, will reach 7.2 million by 2025.

Right now only four per cent of all international students attend a Canadian post-secondary institution.

The second reason is the potential opportunity for immigration. Who better to have applying for citizenship to Canada than a young student who has graduated from one of our schools and is already accustomed to Canadian culture and climate.

This is where the government has tied jobs to education. In the report they outline a number of factors to determine which countries’ international students are most likely to immigrate and would be suitable citizens.

These factors include the total population of the country, its youth population (five to 24 years of age), income, education level, labour market needs, English language proficiency, current number of students in B.C., support for sending students abroad and trade/investment priority.

With these factors the government listed the countries they would most like to attract international students.

These countries are the United States, China, India, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Japan and France.

Right now the government wants to increase the number of international students in the province by 50 per cent in four years.

This means an additional 47,000 international students studying in B.C. Since 2008 growth in international students attending public post-secondary institutions in B.C. has grown by 35 per cent.

To achieve a 50 per cent increase will require another 14,000 international students attending our B.C. colleges and universities.

Right now, competition is tough when trying to attract bright young people from other countries to come to Canada.

Many countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States are much more successful than us in getting these students into their classroom.

How we do in the next four years should be interesting.

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