Skip to main content

SFU Chemistry student Bixia Wang at SFU's Burnaby campus on December 15th, 2011.

Simon Hayter/The Globe and Mail

To double the number of foreign students studying in Canada, as an advisory panel to the federal government proposed last week, would be so beneficial that it is a shame we can't just snap our fingers and make it so. Instead, it will require a more cohesive national strategy – one that helps our universities keep pace on recruitment with those in bigger countries, notably the United States and Britain, and countries that have to this point been more aggressive, including Australia and New Zealand.

Foreign students enrich the educational experience of their Canadian counterparts by providing more diverse perspectives, and give an economic boost to host communites. In many cases, those with strong skill sets seek to join the labour force here after graduation; others go back to their home countries and serve as unofficial ambassadors for Canada, helping to strengthen economic ties. No wonder there is such stiff competition to attract them.

An unusually safe country with relative value-for-money in its postsecondary programs and large immigrant communities with support networks, Canada boasts many of the qualities that students (and, at least as importantly, their parents) tend to look for. The challenge is largely profile. Those who work in university recruitment attest that in China, India and other emerging economies most heavily targeted, Canada is often barely on the radar.

Story continues below advertisement

Perhaps the most important of the 14 recommendations in the advisory panel's report, which ties into several of the other suggestions, is to do more to market Canada's brand. From developing communication materials to participating in trade fairs to forging relationships with foreign universities, there are roles the federal government is uniquely able to play, because it is seen elsewhere to have more credibility than provinces or postsecondary institutions.

The political value of doing so may be limited, and can even invite some backlash. When Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced an international scholarship program aimed at raising the profile of his province's universities, he was accused by his opponents of favouring foreign students over domestic ones. Concerns about such small-mindedness should not be allowed to infect decision-making; knowing that international recruitment is in fact very much about domestic needs, Ottawa should give it the priority it deserves.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.