Tertiary institutions in Canada report that demand from international students is rising, with student numbers from certain countries growing due to a government-supported programme. David Oancia at Niagara College in Welland, ON, says, “Niagara College’s [overseas student population] has grown by an average of 42.9 per cent over the past three years. The first two major nationalities hail from China and India, places where the Student Partner Program (SPP) are in effect. As imagined, the streamlining of the [student visa application] process and application transparency has greatly increased both interest and visa acceptance rates, which have duly increased student numbers.”
The SPP was introduced in 2009 through Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, and aimed to expediate visa processing times for Indian and Chinese students. Its positive effects have been noted by many, including Nadia Ramseier at Algonquin College in Ottawa, ON, who points out that India and China are now their two top source countries, followed by Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Nigeria and South Korea. She adds that SPPs have had the most positive impact on enrolments in the last 12 months, continuing, “We are currently developing new graduate certificates as more and more degree holders are interested in coming to Canada to further their education in a meaningful way.”
Buoyed by increasing interest from some student markets, many institutions have tailored their courses towards market needs. Mark Herringer at North Island College International in Vancouver Island, BC, says, “We have had significantly more success in India and Africa due to significant investments in recruitment opportunities in those areas, as well as in government scholarship programmes and the SPP in India.” He adds, “To enter the Indian and various markets in Africa, we developed five one-year post-degree diplomas in business [subjects] and a two-year post-degree diploma in Global Business Management. These programmes serve the Indian, Chinese and several African markets very well.”
With many overseas students interested in emigrating to Canada after completing their course, programmes preparing them for this transition are proving popular. Jade Burke from Omni College in Richmond, BC, says, “Our core programme is our Canadian Nursing Review Programme for Internationally-Educated Nurses. We have been offering this programme to international students and new immigrants in Canada for the last 12 years.”
Gabriela Facchini from Georgian College in Barrie, ON, notes that many international students are attracted to the college due to its reputation in one particular business sector. “The Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian brings in many international students wanting to work for big automotive companies around the world. You will find our graduates working in major companies in China and Brazil, and of course here in Canada. Other programmes that are popular are engineering and business programmes and Georgian’s aviation management programme.”
The strength of the local economy has been a draw for many students, says Elaine Geddes at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB. “Students are noticing us more through media and online [platforms], and realising this is a place where business is strong and they can get a valuable degree. We work very hard to fast-track international applications so that students get an admission decision sooner so they can arrange visas, travel and accommodation.”
Chris Lynch from the University of Alberta - Alberta MBA programme in Edmonton, AB, says that China and India are consistently their top two markets, with Colombia, Mexico and Iran following behind. “Forty per cent of our full-time MBA programme is made up of international students,” he adds, while pointing out that “stricter visa requirements in other western countries have had a positive impact on student recruitment”.
Oancia points out that growing interest in Canadian tertiary education is likely to continue. “Russia and Commonwealth of Indepedent States (CIS) countries have become our fastest growing markets and now represent the third largest linguistic group,” he says. “This is clearly because this group realises the benefits of the Canadian college system: its flexibility, price and benefits are an attractive alternative for those looking to the UK and EU as the sole educational providers. Due to the mistakes of the UK and US governments, Canada has become almost a fashionable destination. The combination of quality education that provides easy access to a rewarding career, relatively easy access to study and work permits, coupled with liberal post-education access to permanent residence, means that [people] are being given the opportunity to establish themselves in one of the most robust economies in the world,” he relates.
When it comes to recruiting international students, Elaine Geddes from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB, says that staff visits to target markets have proved successful. “In-person recruiting is our most important tool and the one that is most successful in getting us a high calibre of student,” she says. “The Registrar’s Office and the International Office routinely travel abroad and hold recruitment events.”
It also develops partnership programmes with institutions overseas. “We have an Assistant Dean International who travels abroad and signs memoranda of agreement to create two-plus-two programmes with international universities so that we can chose the quality of the student,” says Geddes. This gives students the opportunity to study for two years at home and the last two years in another country.
Gabriela Facchini at Georgian College in Barrie, ON, says that they rely on agents when recruiting. “Students that come through agents are better prepared and counselled. Our representatives are in a better position to help students locally with programme details, their visa application, explanation of cultural differences and they are able to answer all questions personally.”