Canada’s cultural and topographical diversity is hugely appealing for students looking to enter its education system many third-level institutions, such as universities and community colleges, are internationally recognised for their quality programmes.
There are two tiers of postgraduate or graduate study in Canada, explains David Oancia at Niagara College in Welland, ON. “The college system, which either calls them postgraduate or graduate, are in fact specialisation courses. Most take one academic year, however, some colleges have two year programmes. The universities have masters and
doctorates which are a different ball game all together.”
Elective options for postgraduate or graduate level study are wide ranging, and include hospitality and tourism management, digital media and niche fields such as ecosystem restoration and advanced laser the science of generating and harnessing light. Admission criteria can differ with students sometimes required to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field of study.
“Our postgraduate programmes in hospitality and tourism, as well as international business management and human resources management are some of the most sought after internationally,” asserts Oancia. Offering a number of short, intensive one-year courses, its geographic information systems and advanced laser programmes have also grown in popularity, owing, says Oancia, to skills shortages in the Canadian workforce.
Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Burnaby, BC, has been accepting graduate and overseas students for over 40 years, as Gladys We relates. International students are generally interested in postgraduate science, technology, business and education programmes, she observes.
The Université du Québec a Montréal (UQAM), QC, offers a broad selection of postgraduate programmes across its arts, communications, sciences, humanities, education, and political sciences/law faculties, and there is also a school of management. “Many include internships and provide students with valuable field experience in Montréal, Quebec, Canada or in foreign countries,” relates Françoise Braun. Given its locale in the predominantly French-speaking region of Quebec, UQAM attracts students from other French-speaking countries. Non-francophone students, however, can brush up on their French skills at the university’s language centre, comments Braun.
According to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), 32,000 international students engaged in full-time graduate study in 2011. A further 3,000 were enrolled on a part-time basis, and China (16 per cent), France (10 per cent), Iran (nine per cent) and the USA (nine per cent) were the biggest sources for full-time postgraduate enrolment in 2009.
At SFU, postgraduate students from China, Iran and the USA make up the largest cohort of overseas students, representing 58 per cent of internationals on campus. We says, “Our Pacific Rim location and institutional affiliation with the China Scholarship Council make us an attractive choice for students from China. We are well-known in Iran and within the large Iranian diaspora living in Vancouver, particularly for our science and technology programmes.”
There are several migratory options available to students keen to stay after their studies. At SFU, We relates that students are eligible to work up to three years in Canada after initial graduation under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. The permit is valid for the equivalent length of a students’ study programme. However, there are some more fixed migratory pathways that could appeal to those that wish to stay and become a permanent Canadian resident. The Canadian Experience Class was implemented to address Canada’s skill shortages in areas such as health, social and community services and manufacturing. Indeed, faced with an aging population and a low birth rate, the Canadian government was keen to increase its pool of skilled professionals by harnessing the best international students in the country. However, Oancia reports that this option is only open to those that have completed a two-year or four-semester programme, as opposed to a one-year postgraduate course.
In addition, We and Oancia both detail different provincial initiatives in place to help ease migratory passageways for those with genuine intentions to stay. “Many provinces are actually more liberal in their outlook towards postgraduate graduates because their respective economies need skilled labour almost immediately,” asserts Oancia.
With favourable immigration pathways available, there are concerns that the system is susceptible to abuse. Oancia, however, notes that international graduates are a demonstrable way of plugging this skills gap. “There are already shortages within many sectors of the Canadian economy and this problem will multiply dramatically within the next 10 years as the population ages.”