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Outward mobility remains a key challenge for Canada – CBIE 2019

Government representatives in Canada revealed they are negotiating agreements with new countries to explore cooperation opportunities to aid outbound student mobility, but declined to reveal which ones.

Representives from government agencies discuss Canada's International Education Strategy. Photo: The PIE

Encouraging home students to go abroad [is] still a challenge

This topic was a key focus of the CBIE conference 2019, held in Winnipeg this month, as stakeholders focused on how to implement the outward mobility goals of the country’s recently announced International Education Strategy.

Representatives from universities voiced some concerns as to how these strategies would be implemented, with some worried that the onus would mainly fall on the institutions themselves to provide and implement study abroad experiences for students.

Colleges outside of major cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver also raised the point that their students may miss out if there is no funding provided to help them get to visa centres for visas that require them to do biometrics in person, some of which may be located considerable distances from where they live. 

The dual focus of improving outbound and inbound international study experiences added another focus to the event in a country which has seen unprecedented growth in inbound international student numbers.

According to CBIE, as of the end of 2018, there were 572,415 international students in Canada, an increase of 16% over 2017 and a 154% increase since 2010.

Of these 55% came from just two countries – China and India – with the fastest growing markets being Bangladesh (+53%), Iran (+48%), Vietnam (+46%), Colombia (+41%), India (+40%), the Philippines (+29%) and Kenya (+29%).

“We know that one of the barriers for Canadians to study abroad is funding”

“Against the backdrop of a rapidly growing and evolving international education sector in Canada, this year’s CBIE annual conference focused on… ways for the sector to become more inclusive and responsive to emerging needs and priorities,” Jacquelyn Hoult, director of knowledge mobilisation at CBIE, told The PIE.

Representatives from Canada’s government departments said they had received “strong and solid” feedback on the early stages on the implementation of the strategy’s pilot scheme.

At one packed-out session, speakers and delegates explored three major aims of the IES: to encourage Canadians to study abroad; diversify the countries from which international students come to Canada, as well as their subjects and in-country destinations; and increase support for the sector to grow their export services and explore opportunities abroad.

There was a general sentiment that while the country is doing well in terms of bringing international students – despite ongoing issues surrounding diversification – encouraging home students to go abroad was still a challenge.

“We know that one of the barriers for Canadians to study abroad is funding,” said Clark Goodman, director of International Experience Canada.

“We also know another one is credential recognition and we’ve been working with many institutions to see how we can help overcome some of those barriers.

“When I talked to colleagues at the French, German or Australian embassies, it’s a normal part of their growth to work and travel abroad,” Goodman continued.

“In Canada, it is still an exception and that’s something we need to fix.”


Encouraging Canadians to study abroad can be a challenge due to the country’s high quality of education, stakeholders noted, but gaps in the market do exist.

According to Suzanne Alexander, an international higher education consultant, just over 6,000 Canadian students studied in the UK in 2017/18, and most of them were studying one particular subject: law.

“There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it is hard to get into law school in Canada,” she explained.

“[And] it’s a bachelor’s level program in the UK and that means students can come straight from high school to a three-year bachelor of laws degree.

“They need to come back and take a number of additional examinations, but it’s a quicker and more accessible route for many students who are interested in a career in law.”

During the conference, CBIE also unveiled its new Strategic Plan for 2020-2025, which aims to position CBIE to play a more activist and strategic role on behalf of its 150+ member organisations.

“Implementing this bold agenda will mean changes for CBIE”

“Implementing this bold agenda will mean changes for CBIE,” stated CBIE president and CEO, Larissa Bezo. “It will require us to develop new platforms and forums for our engagement with members and key sector stakeholders.

“More to the point, it will require us to engage with our membership and with Canada’s international education community in a more deliberate and strategic way to generate new evidence and insights to inform policies and build consensus for how to strengthen Canada’s status as a global leader in international education.”

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