July 2012 issue

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Canada’s edge

Community colleges in Canada have much to offer international students, including small, intimate classes, comparatively low tuition fees and programmes with a vocational focus, as Claire Twyman discovers.

Although each Canadian province has its own education system, the country’s community colleges have a lot in common, typically offering post-secondary programmes that “students can graduate from in as little as three months or as long as three years”, according to Lindsay Byers at Georgian College in Barrie, ON, which ranked number one in 2011’s International Student Barometer, a worldwide overseas satisfaction survey.

“[They] generally put more emphasis on the vocational work to learn, learn to work aspect [of education] than the university system in Canada,” Byers continues. “This often saves employers valuable time and money from providing in depth training sessions.” At the institution, which provides diploma and postgraduate certificate programmes but also has university partnerships offering degree options, “Programmes most popular with international students are Business, Engineering, Hospitality and Tourism, and Health and Wellness Studies.”

At Herzing College’s Montreal campus in Quebec, where overseas students comprise 30 per cent of the student body, international audiences appreciate that programmes are short since they do not include unrelated general modules, says Filomena Mastroangelo. At the institution, which also has campuses in Ottawa and Toronto, ON, and Winnipeg, MB, she adds that Accounting, Computing Support and International Drafting programmes have recently been introduced to attract more international students.

And at Holland College in Charlottetown, PE, “International students have been training at The Culinary Institute of Canada, part of the college, for many years,” Lornie Hughes enthuses. “But more recently,” she explains, “[they] are applying for Journalism, Business programmes and our offerings in Sports and Leisure.” The college also has more degree pathways than any other post-secondary institution in the Atlantic Provinces, “giving graduates the opportunity to earn a university degree in as little as two years after they have completed their programme”.

In British Columbia, among others, community colleges are authorised to offer degrees, as Cheryl Webber from the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC, highlights. Degree options at the college include a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in Sustainable Business Practices, and international students currently make up six per cent of the student population. “We have seen an increase [in overseas students] in recent years due to the popularity of Canada as a study abroad destination, and the increased understanding of the advantages of studying at small community colleges where students can receive a more personalised experience,” she relates, adding that the famous tourist region of the Rocky Mountains, close to the college “has made [the] Tourism and Recreation Management Programme popular”.

Financial aspects are, of course, an important consideration for international students. Cambrian College of Applied Arts and Technology in Sudbury, ON, prides itself on “workshops focussed on helping students with immigration, taxes and managing life in Canada”, informs Hope Yungblut, adding, “Cambrian College has made strides in the past year to offer over CAD$50,000 (US$49,000) in scholarships solely for international students.”

Tuition fees also tend to be cheaper at Canadian community colleges than at their university counterparts, as Webber highlights. “[At College of the Rockies], tuition is currently CAD$4,250 (US$4,243) per four-month semester and our homestay fees are CAD$600 (US$599) per month – about half the cost of a major university.” And at Herzing College, Mastroangelo relates, “Programmes are about three times less the amount of years than a university programme, [which] also works out to be more affordable. A student can expect to pay CAD$4,000-5,000 (US$3,994-4,992) [per four-month session] for their studies.”

William Litchfield notes Parkland College in Yorkton, SK, where Business and Hotel Management programmes are the most common for international students, is popular with Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Ukrainian and Jamaican students. “Canada and [the province of] Saskatchewan are working closely to improve mobility between these countries,” he notes, while Cambrian College currently implements the Student Partners Program (SPP), a scheme introduced by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and Canadian visa offices in India to streamline the visa application process for Indian students. The initiative was extended to include Chinese students in March this year.

In terms of recruitment, “We have a network of agents across the globe that recruit students on our behalf,” Litchfield notes, among other methods. “[They have] a strong understanding of the Canadian recruitment process to help students apply for their study permit.” And at Cambrian College, Yungblut enthuses there is a “liaison office in India to better serve the growing interests of students wishing to study in Canada”, adding that the institution works with education consultants in over 20 countries, and staff participate in overseas activities.

The Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC)

The ACCC, formed in 1972 to support member institutions, recognises the positive economic impact international students have on Canada. According to its website, Canada has less overseas students than the UK and USA, and in recognition of this, “[The] ACCC is now one of five key institutions that have formed a Canadian Consortium on International Student Marketing.”

Hope Yungblut at Cambrian College of Applied Arts and Technology in Sudbury, ON, informs, “[The ACCC] works with government, industry and NGOs [non-governmental organisations] in a variety of ways, including developing international project opportunities, [such as] the Student Partners Program (SPP) to support a smoother process for international student recruitment and organises various industry sector councils and conferences to share best practices among college members.”

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