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Canada: $23m for international education strategy

The Canadian government has unveiled “key elements” of its long awaited international education strategy, and allocated CAN$23 million to supporting the plan in the latest federal budget. It has also promised $42 million over two years to speed up visa processing for all temporary residents including students.

“Today’s budget establishes key foundations of a comprehensive strategy for international education"

Despite yesterday’s budget being called “no frills”, due to the country’s deficit struggle, the government emphasised the economic contribution international students made to Canada and a desire for it to grow.

More elements of the strategy will be unveiled in coming months, the government has promised

There was no mention of bold calls to double the number of international students, but the government promised CAN$10 million over two years for post-secondary marketing activities. This will include “targeted market plans for priority markets, better promotion of a cohesive Canadian education brand, and a sophisticated web marketing strategy”.

It will also provide $13 million over two years to the Mitacs Globalink Program – a scheme offering the best and brightest students from around the world research opportunities in Canada. “We are pleased the budget announces a first step in helping provide Canadian students with international research opportunities,” added Paul Davidson, CEO of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

Signalling an end to lengthy delays faced by students coming to Canada, $42 million will be used to improve visa processing for all temporary residents.

The government said that other elements of the strategy would be unveiled over the coming months.

The announcements follow recommendations made last year by the Canadian Consortium for International Education Marketing – the pan-sector body tasked with helping formulate what is Canada’s first ever international education strategy.

Chair of CCIEM and president of the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), Karen McBride, welcomed the government’s measures, but said more would need to be done.

“Today’s budget establishes key foundations of a comprehensive strategy for international education, and provides an important investment to start implementing it. Given the potential of all aspects of international education to help build Canada’s economic competitiveness, however, we will need to reinforce our efforts over the next few years to keep pace with other countries.”

Other sectoral bodies from the Consortium including the AUCC and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges welcomed the budget. However, Languages Canada and CAPS-i, which represent language and K-12 sectors – unlikely to benefit from these measures – did not comment.

“We will need to reinforce our efforts over the next few years to keep pace with other countries”

The government said the measures would complement recent reforms to the student immigration programme, such as the easing of routes for qualified students to work and permanent residency. However, it is yet to acknowledge criticisms of another plan to prevent bogus colleges by allowing provinces to designate institutions that can accept foreign students. Languages Canada fears the policy could risk reputable schools being relegated.

Reflecting the country’s struggle to reduce its deficit, the government said it would “review and respond to CCIEM’s other recommendations as its fiscal position improves”. However, it underlined the CAN$14.7 billion contribution foreign students made to the economy in 2010.

According to data released last month, Canada welcomed a record 100,000 international students in 2012, an increase of 60% from 2004.

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