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BCCIE: focus on student support, global challenges

Education institutions in British Columbia should emphasise international student retention and support alongside recruitment efforts. This was one of the talking points at the BC Council for International Education’s annual Summer Seminar last month, where discussions focused on balancing institutional requirements and global challenges.

Jenifer Cushman, AIEA president, delivers the lunch time address.Jenifer Cushman, AIEA president, delivers the lunch time address.

Delegates were charged to consider their role in tackling global issues such as climate chance, HIV and gender inequality - all themes raised during the keynote address

Reflecting on the theme of the conference, Global responsibility and institutional mandate: opportunity for innovation, delegates were charged to consider their role in tackling global issues such as climate change, HIV and gender inequality by keynote speaker Stephen Lewis, co-founder of AIDS-Free World in the US.

“We are asking: what kind of world do we want to live in?”

There was consensus that there is an absence of strong global leadership to solve these problems, but that international education can help to equip people with the skills needed to deal with the crises.

“Education is the route to the future,” Wade Davis, professor of anthropology and BC leadership chair in cultures and ecosystems at risk at the University of British Columbia, said in a keynote speech. “We are asking: what kind of world do we want to live in?”

The event (), attended by 300 delegates, reinforced international education’s contribution to the province. As its fourth largest export sector, international education generated more than CAN$2.3bn in 2012/13 and supports over 25,500 jobs province-wide.

However, attendees were advised to invest time and money to train staff campus-wide in order to understand international students’ experiences.

Commenting on the discussions, Colin Doerr, director of communications and programme at BCCIE, told The PIE News, thatemphasis needs to be placed both on recruiting and retaining high quality students, while ensuring there are strong social and institutional supports for them within their programmes and campus communities”.

Delegates were encouraged to find that many schools and districts have already developed comprehensive support systems for their international students, while others are “less experienced but no less supportive”, Doerr added.

A panel of students from Thompson Rivers University advised delegates that campus clubs, social groups and a generalised orientation that doesn’t separate international and domestic students could all contribute to on-campus integration.

Creating pathways to employment in Canada and internationally were also discussed, with international study noted to improve career prospects.

Delegates noted that higher employability was particularly the case for traditionally underrepresented students like marginalised groups, older and first generation students, and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Scholarships and other financial support could help to improve access for these groups, Jenifer Cushman, president of the US-based Association of International Education Administrators told delegates in her address.

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