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Canada unveils international education strategy

The Canadian government has presented its international education strategy earlier this month. Launched under the responsibility of the Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, the strategy is aiming at increasing Canada’s economic prosperity by making use of Canada’s attractiveness as a study destination for prospective international students.

In total, the number of international students is set to be almost doubled from 239 131 in 2011 to 450 000 by 2022. The strategy estimates that such an increase of international student numbers would create 86 500 net new jobs for a total of 173 100 new jobs linked to international education within Canada. Moreover, doubling the number of international students would provide almost CAD 10 billion (EUR 6.7 billion) to the Canadian economy and approximately CAD 910 million (EUR 610 million) of additional tax revenues.

The prospects seem promising, but how can this be possibly achieved? The Canadian government will

  • seek to strengthen current forms of bilateral cooperation programmes on education;
  • provide additional funding to increase the capacity of the Temporary Resident Visa Programme within the framework of its International Student Program;
  • elaborate an enhanced marketing and branding concept for Canada as a study destination by making use of its bilingual, multicultural identity;
  • provide further financial means for scholarship and bursary programmes; and
  • work closely together with key stakeholders through their involvement in expert panel groups.
While emphasising the intention to maintain its current position as a preferred study destination for Western countries such as South Korea, France, the US, Germany and Japan, Canadian higher education plans to expand further into new flourishing markets with a high demand. Consequently, the strategy identifies emerging countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the Middle East and North African countries and Vietnam as key markets and main source of potential international students. Given their young demographics and, as the report states, “in some cases, inadequate educational capacities”, future demand for international education is most likely to stem from these countries. With a share of 30.9 % for Chinese, 13.1 % for Indian and 5.6 % for Saudi-Arabian students, these identified key markets already provide today the highest rates of international student enrolment in Canada (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2013).

But will Canada really walk the talk? The strategy is ambitious and only future can tell if the Canadian government will manage to suit their actions to the word. Critics have pointed to the difficulties in implementing such an ambitious strategy such as the limited capacity of universities and the risk of ousting local Canadian students. In any case, the report states that performance shall be monitored with an evaluation report by 2018, which will show progress at midway point of Canada’s international education strategy.

Government of Canada - Press release

Canada's International Education Strategy