Canada is marginalized in international education

Most Canadians travel to the United States

A report from Ottawa says that Canada has fewer international students in its universities today than it had at the beginning of the decade. In addition, only 3 per cent of Canadian students are studying outside Canada, almost all of them in the United States.

The National Report on International Students in Canada 1998-99, launched before the holidays by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), indicates that federal initiatives to boost foreign enrolments here and to encourage Canadians to study abroad aren't working. The CBIE is a non-governmental association of 110 colleges, universities and other institutions; Concordia is a member.

The report estimates that there are more than 2 million students now studying outside their home country, a virtual doubling in the past decade. However, Canada's share of this massive market has declined markedly.

Canada's rank as a host country for international students has dropped from fourth to seventh position in the past 10 years. Both Australia and Japan have bumped Canada aside, and Malaysia, France and Britain are mounting strong recruitment campaigns.

In 1994, the federal government announced that education and culture would be the "third pillar" of Canadian foreign policy. However, according to the CBIE, this third pillar is at risk of collapse, since fewer scholarship opportunities are available for foreign nationals to study in Canada or for Canadians to study abroad. They cite the following figures: In Canada, scholarships given by CIDA dropped from 3,267 in 1992 to 947 in 1998. Canadian contributions to international education have also dropped over the past five years.

France sends the most university students to Canada, studying largely in Quebec institutions, including Concordia. Through reciprocal agreements between Quebec and France, they pay local fees rather than the higher international student fee.

Canada's success in the past decade has come in attracting international students for non-formal educational activities, such as language training and business tours rather than formal college and university programs. The participation in these short-term activities has nearly tripled in the past three years, from 6,300 to 17,600.

On the other side of the international education equation, some 25,000 Canadians are studying abroad, but of these 22,000 are in the United States, a singular lack of diversity that has persisted over the years.

The CBIE report identifies a number of reasons for Canada's weak performance: aggressive competition from abroad, especially from other English- speaking countries; fluctuating fee schedules across the country that have left many students confused; a federally financed marketing strategy which was more supply-driven (filling our own empty seats) than demand-driven, and clients), and concentrated on Asia and Latin America; a lack of commitment to reciprocal scholarship schemes; a lack of brand recognition for Canadian colleges and universities; and negative impressions about Canadian visa processing.

- Thanks to Claudette Fortier, Co-ordinator of Concordia's International Students Office, for this information.

Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.