According to the latest statistics from the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC), the national voice of universities in Canada, there were 114,000 international students enrolled in university programmes (both undergraduate and graduate) in the country in 2012, compared with slightly over 100,000 in 2011.
An association spokesperson verified that half of all overseas students continued to stem from one of five major source nations: China, France, the USA, India and South Korea. “Close to 25 per cent of students came from China, which has been Canada’s top source of international students since 2001,” she said. France represented close to 10 per cent of all international students enrolled at a Canadian higher education institution in 2012, approximately eight per cent of students came from the USA, India and South Korea, and a further four per cent were Saudi Arabian in origin.
Echoing AUCC data, Mike Henniger, Director of International Marketing at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, BC, confirms that high volumes of Chinese and Indian students continue to feed into the university’s international demographic. “Both China and India have very close connections with British Columbia, making it a natural destination choice for students looking to go abroad,” he surmises. The current TRU campus consists of approximately 1,700 overseas students; 14 per cent of the total student body. Russian, Saudi, Japanese and European domiciles are well represented, says Henniger.
At Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, overseas students represent just under a quarter of the current student body, a 200 per cent increase since 2009, says Director of International Student Outreach, Joanne Elvy. “At the present time Algoma University has an international strategy in place to internationalise the campus, not only looking to increase numbers coming into the university, but as well outbound mobility,” she adds.
Thanks to the Saudi government’s scholarship scheme, Saudi students are the most numerous at Algoma, followed by Chinese whose trend has been to enrol at a smaller university before transitioning into a larger institution. Meanwhile, the Science without Borders Scholarship in Brazil and a well-established marketing campaign in Japan have helped retain good numbers from these two countries.
In line with worldwide population and student mobility trends, Lorraine Trotter at George Brown College in Toronto, ON, observes that China, India and Korea are their largest student source markets. A new state-of-the-art waterfront campus, housing the college’s Centre of Health Sciences, opened at the end of 2012 and highlights the college’s commitment to “expanding its footprint in downtown Toronto”, she says. “International student enrolment will remain an important area of growth and a key source of diversity for George Brown as we strive to support the international engagement of students and faculty,” she adds.
With so much competition (AUCC represents 97 public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges), marketing can present somewhat of a challenge for all tertiary providers in Canada, as Elvy explains. “As a small university we face difficult challenges competing against larger, more established universities in larger Canadian cities. Agents may or may not be faced with difficulties trying to market our university, as the business of education is client-driven, [but they may find it] difficult to persuade applicants to consider an otherwise unknown city.” Asked what helps differentiate their institution from other providers, Elvy relates that they can “offer the hands on assistance and personable service that a larger university might not be able to offer in the same way”.
Henniger notes that they “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to marketing initiatives. They use a combination of methods including education fairs, language school visits and campus tours to promote the university. They also market themselves through social media channels and a network of agent representatives.
Students at Algoma University are drawn to programmes that offer employment opportunities after graduation, for example a Bachelor of Business Administration, focussing on marketing, accounting or human resources, notes Elvy. And while the Post-Graduation Work Permit programme is an attractive draw card, Elvy relates that the university supports work opportunities during the study period. “International students have a different understanding of cultural protocol, and that factor alone can be a reason why they face difficulty in finding employment after graduation,” she says, adding that students should take advantage of a one-semester Co-operative Education Programme if their university offers it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), talks about the association’s role in promoting Canadian universities overseas.
”Since 1911, AUCC has been the national voice for Canadian universities. Its mission is to foster and promote the interests of higher education and university research while participating in the development of public policy to find solutions to the economic and social challenges facing Canada. International students broaden students’ perspectives, and help create mutually beneficial economic, diplomatic and cultural ties with Canada. Recognising this, AUCC liaises with the federal government to help both promote Canada as a student destination and encourage Canadian students to access more international opportunities. Canada is increasingly attracting top university students from more than 200 countries. In 2011, the number of international students enrolled in Canadian universities grew for the 16th consecutive year and full-time international enrolment has increased by more than 11 per cent since 2010. Canada offers high quality university education at an affordable cost. Graduates of Canadian undergraduate programmes are readily accepted into masters programmes around the globe. Students can study at either large or small universities, some at the heart of the country’s biggest and most vibrant urban areas; others are located in small cities with easy access to Canada’s open spaces and natural beauty.“