The economic effects of foreign students nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016, when they reached a total of $15.5 billion in Canada for everything from tuition fees to rent and groceries, according to a federal analysis. (File Photo)

Canada to boost presence overseas to attract more international students

The economic effects of foreign students nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016

Canada plans to attract more international students by expanding its presence overseas in an effort to advance classroom diversity and boost economic benefits that already amount to billions per year.

The economic effects of foreign students nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016, when they reached a total of $15.5 billion in Canada for everything from tuition fees to rent and groceries, according to a federal analysis.

READ MORE: International students hit hard by B.C. tuition fee hikes

To put that in perspective, the document says the sector supported nearly 170,000 jobs in 2016 and had greater economic impacts than Canada’s exports of auto parts, aircraft and lumber.

The vast majority of foreign students have been coming from India and China, while recent years have seen surges from countries with fast-growing economies like Vietnam.

Officials from universities, colleges and the federal government are now in the early stages of developing an “aligned” strategy that will broaden campaigns in other parts of the world, Universities Canada president Paul Davidson said in an interview. He expects Canada to promote itself as an education destination in places with expanding economies and large populations of young people, like Colombia and parts of Africa.

“We’re looking at where in the world there is a growing middle-class demand for higher education, a place where Canada has got linkages and connections,” said Davidson, whose organization represents 96 institutions.

Canada has been an attractive place to study for years. In 2000, federal numbers show there were 122,665 valid study permits in Canada — a number that hit 572,415 last year for an increase of 467 per cent. Numbers compiled by Universities Canada say full-time international student enrolment at universities rose by about 15 per cent across Canada between 2017 and 2018.

The 2018 growth came despite a diplomatic dispute last August between Canada and Saudi Arabia, which has been one of the top home countries for international university students.

The Saudi government suspended diplomatic ties with Canada, expelled the Canadian ambassador and recalled its own envoy to Ottawa after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her department criticized the regime on Twitter for its arrest of social activists. Saudi Arabia also ordered thousands of its citizens studying in Canada to come home.

Davidson said diplomatic efforts by the federal officials and the higher-education community helped reduce the impact. In the end, he said many Saudi students stayed, including medical trainees who had been in Canada for several years as well as those in studying in other areas of health science and some graduate programs.

“The Saudi situation underscored the importance of having a diverse range of countries to work with,” Davidson said.

Last month’s federal budget announced nearly $148 million of funding over five years for international education, part of which will be dedicated to efforts to attract more foreign students to Canada.

International Trade Minister Jim Carr said beyond the economic impacts, students from abroad often establish important, decades-long links with Canada.

“We believe that international students add value to our communities, that they experience Canada’s fine institutions and take with them an appreciation of who we are as Canadians,” Carr said in an interview.

“Sometimes they stay, sometimes they go back to their home countries and become, really, ambassadors for Canada.”

Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said foreign students bring new perspectives that help their Canadian classmates better understand the world. Their higher tuition fees strengthen institutions and ensure a wider choice of programs are offered for all students, she added.

Amyot, who represents 132 publicly funded colleges and institutes, said her members have also seen rising numbers of international students. In 2006-07, she said foreign students made up a four per cent share of enrolment in the college system — by 2015-16, it had grown to eight per cent.

She said immigration policy changes in Canada have helped it compete with other countries in attracting the world’s increasingly mobile post-secondary students. The policies, she added, have sped up visa processing times, permitted foreign students to work in Canada while they study and improved a graduate’s chance of obtaining permanent residency.

Numbers from the Immigration Department show that last year 10,950 former study permit holders became permanent residents. Between 2015 and 2017, the annual total failed to eclipse 3,000.

“Some of our best immigrants, in fact, have been international students that have studied in Canada, worked in Canada,” said Amyot. “This becomes very, very attractive and Canada has a shortage of employees right now, so it is really helping our labour-market situation.”

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Governing bodies accused of ‘destroying’ girls’ hockey by Island’s top team

When asked for advice hockey dad says ‘put your girls in soccer’

Guns could use smartphone-style fingerprint locks in near future

Startups looking to outflank traditional gun manufacturers using tech knowhow

Esquimalt to finalize township’s four-year plan

Council will soon make final decisions on its draft strategic goals and priorities

Sarah Beckett Cruise back for its fourth year this Sunday

Money this year is going into buying playground equipment for the playground in honour of the fallen constable

Syrian violinist plays with new Canadian band at upcoming fundraiser

Sari Alesh played with the Symphony Orchestra in Syria for six years

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Most Read