Canada should double its recruitment of international students over the next decade, according to an expert panel commissioned by the federal government.
The panel, which reported last month, called for an increase in scholarships and greater coordination between the provinces, which have responsibility for higher education. The new strategy would also include extra investment in marketing and faster processing of visa applications.
Chaired by Amit Chakma, the president of Western University, Ontario, the panel noted that increasing enrolments from 239,000 to more than 450,000 might do no more than maintain Canada’s current 5 per cent share of the international student market. A series of reports has forecast continuing rapid growth in international student mobility.
Canada is in a good position to attract more students because its universities enjoy a good reputation and the country is seen as offering a safe, multicultural environment, the panel argued. Numbers have grown by 36 per cent since 2007.
The report, entitled International Education, a Key Driver of Canada’s Future Prosperity, called for 8,000 new scholarships for international students to be funded by the federal and provincial governments, with help from private sources. It also proposed that 50,000 Canadian students should be assisted to take courses overseas.
If adopted, the strategy will be Canada’s first on international education. Overseas students are seen as boosting the economy through their fees and other spending, but also by plugging future skills shortages when they graduate. It is estimated that international students spent a total of $8-billion in Canada during 2010, up from $6.5-billion in 2008.
Provinces such as British Columbia have already announced their own plans to recruit more international students. But Dr.Chakma said a “united front” was needed because few international students would recognise Canadian provinces and were more likely to choose their destination by country.