The world is becoming more global in many facets, and education, trade and investment are a few of them. Canada’s Global Market Action Plan is a prime example of a nation that is reaching out across the globe to ensure new jobs and opportunities for its citizens.
The Global Market Action Plan encompasses Canada’s International Education Strategy. It is designed to attract students to Canada’s colleges and universities in order to get the required training to pull the nation forward should they choose to remain in Canada. It is meant to attract international talent to Canada and prepare for the 21st century. Foreign and domestic students studying together can foster collaboration and innovation. Should international students choose to be sojourners and return to their home country, it is Canada’s hope that they will become ambassadors for Canadian government and businesses.
Educators wear many hats, and with the support of all the players in the fields of education, research and the private sector, Canada believes it can become a world leader in international education, ensuring a prosperous future.
The plan is to almost double the number of students from abroad in the nation by 2022. The strategy, unveiled by Ed Fast, International Trade Minister has set the goal at 450,000 foreign students by 2022. In 2012, this number was 265,000. For the most part, colleges and universities have welcomed the goal, although critics say the plan is short on specifics. Concerns exist about whether this influx of students can be absorbed into secondary institutions without compromising the college experience for domestic students.
One of the concerns expressed by some university leaders is that funding and planning is not adequate to meet goals. Larger schools are concerned that they are already short on space. For example, Ryerson University in Toronto has received about 70,000 applications for only 6,500 first year spaces available.
Although Ryerson president Sheldon Levy says they would love to have more students from abroad, he says the reality is that the space is just not there.
Levy stated, “We would have to put together a major plan around this…to ensure that domestic students were not displaced by international students.”
Mr. Fast maintains that the strategy can work. The plan earmarks $5 Million a year for marketing and targets six key markets including India, China and Brazil. The strategy also aims to better coordinate recruiting, giving Canadian students a chance to travel and study abroad as well.
The general consensus is that yes, diversification in higher education is highly desirable, but critics call the plan “lightweight and misguided.” Canadian Association of University Teachers Jim Turk says the strategy is a “money grab, ignoring what is best for foreign students.”
Research on the consequences of increased international students is limited with benefits mostly in internationalizing educational environments. Costs have been associated to heavy demands for institutional support services. The research does suggest that increasing cultural awareness does result by having international students in colleges and universities.
Students show that international students experience more problems than their domestic peers, but there is no evidence in the literature that shows support services are strained by the international students.
The debate over Canada’s International Education Strategy will likely continue at least in the near future.