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Canadian minister praises “essential role” of international students

International students play an “essential role” in Canada and it is vital that the country is kept as a “top destination of choice” for “extraordinarily talented individuals”, stakeholders have heard.

The conference, which was held virtually on March 10, brought together experts from across the Canadian international education sector. Photo: Applyboard

While an emphasis on in-person learning was encouraged, there was something to be said for the quickness and adaptability of the sector

Canadian minister for immigration, refugees and citizenship Sean Fraser, who himself was an international student in the Netherlands, voiced the government’s want to “make it easier” for people to stay in the country after graduation, during a plenary speech at ApplyBoard’s Educate the World Conference – Canada.

“We know that when people come and make a contribution, it does wonders for our communities”

“We know that when people come and make a contribution, it does wonders for our communities and does wonders for our economy,” Fraser said.

“Canada’s recovery from Covid is going to require that we bring an emphasis on growth-oriented policies, and it’s a no-brainer to me that immigration is going to help drive that growth,” he continued.

Sector stakeholders have previously said that a residency pathway for students is a “key pillar” for the government’s commitment to welcoming more than 400,000 new permanent residents annually.

The ApplyBoard conference, which was held virtually on March 10, brought together experts from across the Canadian international education sector, including directors from private colleges, university associations and language schools.

Featured panels included source market outlooks at all regions, including Latin America and Africa, East and South East Asia and South Asia and the Middle East, as well as dual sessions on Québec sector trend and insights in both English and French, and scholarships as recruitment tools and optimising digital and growth strategies.

The opening panel, featuring big players like Languages Canada and Universities Canada, CICan and CAPS-I and CBIE, highlighted the importance of “embracing a changing world”.

“There is considerably more vulnerability with internationally mobile students,” said Larissa Bezo, president and CEO of CBIE.

“We need to make sure we keep delivering on that student-centred approach – we must support them as whole students, and continue to refine and prioritise around them,” she declared.

While the pandemic has hit hard, Gonzalo Peralta, head of Languages Canada insisted that this period is one of opportunity.

“It’s so important to get out there – we couldn’t have asked for a better position emerging from the pandemic,” he said.

“People come here for Canada – to go to our universities and colleges, to emigrate, to integrate into society – we need contact as the world reopens,” Peralta added.

“We have to continue to build on the positives coming out on the pandemic, and attract new markets that have not previously been interested in Canada,” added Bonnie McKie, executive director of CAPS-I.

While an emphasis on in-person learning was encouraged during the panel, there was something to be said for the quickness and adaptability of the sector going into the pandemic.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better position emerging from the pandemic”

“Our sector moved 10 years in 10 days,” explained Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada.

“That desire, though, to be in-person and on-campus to learn remained so strong.

“What we need to ask is how do we take the best bits of online learning to invigorate in-person learning? We have three separate cohorts who are going to be experiencing that for the first time this year,” he added.

Talking on the subject of immigration in his plenary speech and Q&A, Fraser again emphasised the good position Canada was in compared to the rest of the world.

“International students bring extraordinary employment skills, and with many of them having work experience in Canada, they’re well position to apply for permanent residency on the back end of their studies,” said Fraser.

“These students are helping to fill a pressing need in areas like healthcare and tech, and as more students build their future in Canada, this is going to contribute directly to our economic recovery and our long-term prosperity.

“During Covid, many international students lost their part time jobs as a result of lockdowns and business closures – that’s why we lifted restrictions to allow them to work over 20 hours per week off campus during an academic term… so they could support themselves during a really challenging time,” he continued.

Fraser lauded the 2021 results, with Canada welcoming more than 300,000 international students, and emphasised that their immigration and continued presence in the country is wanted.

“Our sector moved 10 years in 10 days”

“We don’t just want you to study here – we’re hoping to create pathways that allow you to stay her and make a lasting contribution beyond your academic career,” Fraser insisted.

Martin Basiri, one of the co-founders and CEO of ApplyBoard, pressed the minister on the ongoing visa processing issues that have been plaguing Canadian immigration pathways.

“If we completely did away with the requirement that there was an intent to go home at the end of your year, for example, we wouldn’t have space to resettle anyone else through economic streams or humanitarian streams,” the minister explained

“We have to try to make sure that we’re planning for the succession of a person’s immigration journey – we want more international students to come here and likely stay here, but not necessarily every single student who applies to be planning to stay immediately because our immigration system doesn’t have that capacity.”

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