As the biggest province in Canada, Ontario educates 44 per cent of all Canadian students [and] conducts well over a third of the university research in Canada,” says Jennifer Grass, Senior Director for Communications and Public Affairs at the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). Home to more than 20 universities, “The quality of education in Ontario is exceptional,” according to Kurtis Gray at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), with government funding that ensures regular investments in education. Furthermore, the cost is often lower than in the United States, points out Laura Wood at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
“Ontario universities offer a breadth and depth of academic programming, innovative research activities and inclusive, diverse environments,” says Grass. “The best students from countries all over the globe” are recruited to Queen’s University in Kingston “one of Canada’s leading universities”, according to Katrina Clarke. Its selling points include “a small, safe, manageable campus, and an internationally-focused community of students”, alongside a broad base of strong programme options in a wide range of disciplines across the arts and sciences, and a range of services and support programmes dedicated to making international students feel at home, she comments.
UWO, meanwhile, “offers tremendous flexibility, with a modular degree structure and more than 400 different specialisations, majors and minors at the undergraduate level, allowing students to customise their degree”, notes Gray, and several of its programmes have close links to nearby industry, healthcare and agricultural resources. He adds that the engineering faculty offers a common first year, so that students can specialise after learning more about the different disciplines, and it also boasts Canada’s first Green Process Engineering programme, while its Bachelor of Medical Science programme is one of the top programmes of its kind in the country, he claims.
As Gray points out, among the attractions of Canada in general is the fact that, after six months of study, students can obtain a permit to undertake part-time work experience off-campus while studying, and, following graduation, may apply for a work permit for up to three years. At UWO, he adds, full-time students can also work on campus without a work permit, through the International Student Work Opportunities Program.
Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning offers unique programmes with a career focus, says Diane Simpson. “All of our degree programmes include a work component, which has students primarily working in the Toronto area and beyond,” she explains, and most programmes have some global focus, especially those such as International Business, Tourism and e-Business Marketing. Especially popular with international students are its postgraduate programmes, particularly the two-year options, which, she notes, offer students with a degree from their home country the opportunity to obtain a Canadian credential and qualify to apply for the three-year postgraduate certificate.
Focusing primarily on postgraduate education, the Rotman School of Management is rated by the Financial Times as the country’s leading business school, Wood observes. Located in downtown Toronto, Canada’s financial centre, where many of its graduates will end up working, it is, she remarks, “well-placed to offer top-notch business education that is closely aligned with industry needs and expectations”. Its two-year (minimum) MBA programme gives eligibility for a three-year post-graduation work permit, without the need for sponsorship from an employer. An added bonus is that it is fairly easy for students to bring their spouses and children to Canada when they come to study for an MBA. “In fact,” notes Wood, “spouses of students with a valid study permit have access to a work permit that will allow [them] to work during the student’s course of study.”
As Wood points out, funding can be a challenge. The Ontario government’s recent decision to cut funding for international PhD students suggests that the climate may be set to toughen further. Thus, a further attraction specific to the institute is the professional student loan programme for MBA students.
Laurentian University in Sudbury also has strong credentials in postgraduate education, and, as, Joanne Musico observes, “Our small size means that international students can work closely with supervisors who are among the best in the world.” The university has an international reputation for its research in environmental fields, such as fresh-water ecology and eco-system rehabilitation. In terms of undergraduate degrees, it is a recognised specialist in Indigenous Learning, offering a degree in Social Work Native Human Services, which is one of the only programmes of its kind in Canada, according to Musico, and in 2012 will open the country’s first new school of architecture in 40 years.
According to the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), more than 30,000 students from 180 countries are being educated at the province’s universities, two-thirds of them undergraduates. While the major sources are China, Korea, the USA, France and India, the fastest-growing, Jennifer Grass observes, are Saudi Arabia, India, Iran, the Philippines and Cambodia. The provincial government’s agenda is to double international enrolment, and all COU members have international partnership agreements that are generating increasing volumes of students and research partnerships, attests Grass. International enrolments have grown by a multiple of four since 2005 at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, and according to Diane Simpson, the institute is “extremely active” in its recruitment efforts to help maintain this. To date, student fairs, overseas representatives and the use of alumni returning home have reaped positive results.