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Canada: HE study permits “on course to be at least 11% up” on 2013

Canada’s higher education sector is on track to welcome a record number of international students in 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has announced, saying that the number of tertiary-level study permits it has issued so far this year has already surpassed the number issued in the whole of 2013.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander addresses delegates at CBIE's national conference in Ottawa.

“I need no convincing, and I think our government needs no convincing, that excellence and international exchange are objectives that we need to pursue aggressively”

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that, having issued 103,999 visas, thus breaking last year’s record by September, student visa issuances are “on course to be at least 11% up” on 2013 by the end of the year.

The figure marks a 26% increase over the equivalent period in 2012

The figure marks a 26% increase over the equivalent period in 2012 and bodes well for the government’s goal to double international student numbers by 2022.

Speaking at the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE)’s annual conference in Ottawa, Alexander used the figures to reaffirm the government’s commitment to enhancing study abroad in Canada.

“I need no convincing, and I think our government needs no convincing, that excellence and international exchange are objectives that we need to pursue aggressively,” he told attendees in a keynote speech.

He highlighted the rise in numbers despite opposition to some new regulatory measures brought in in the last two years, including the ending of co-op programmes and restrictions on who can offer immigration advice, in an attempt to assuage fears that some legislation could damage the sector.

“Every time we act to shore up the integrity of [international student] programmes, they become more popular,” he said. “Integrity is popular.”

During the conference Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston, also stressed the importance of internationalising Canada’s education system.

“The best minds have always looked outward, to others in their communities, to their countries and across international borders,” he said.

“Every time we act to shore up the integrity of [international student] programmes, they become more popular”

Alexander also emphasised how crucial skilled immigrants, many of them former international students, are to bolster Canada’s ageing workforce, saying that the government will increase its immigration threshold by 20,000 to 280,000 in 2015.

Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, underlined the importance of international students as future members of Canada’s workforce, stressing that the country “simply won’t have enough talent” without skilled foreign graduates.

However, to remain competitive and reach the government’s objectives, educators were urged to get on board with national marketing campaigns. During a session on Canada’s International Student Programme (ISP), education institutions were encouraged to sell Canada to international students as well as advertising their own institutions when talking to prospective international students.

Paul Bailey of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said that though it is “still early days”, the government’s Imagine Canada national marketing strategy is picking up steam. Only authorised educational institutions – including schools with provincially certified curricula and language institutions accredited under a newly mandated provincial quality assurance scheme – can apply to use the branding, and 320 institutions across all levels have been authorised so far.

The department is optimistic about its success, having just signed a deal with a PR firm who will help with a three-year marketing strategy, including a “refreshed” look to be launched next year.

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