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Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Canada can’t quench thirst for int’l students

The Harper government proclaims foreign students brought $8 billion to the Canadian economy in 2010. When you consider what’s at stake, and this government’s goal to double the international student intake in 2022, it borders on the absurd to think that in promoting Canadian education abroad, the Canadian government is short of funds to serve a glass of water. Seriously. Read on.

When the British Council blows through town, you know it – advertisements, aggressive school outreach programs, first class event venues promoting ‘brand Britannia.’

The US State Department regularly sponsors significant cultural and other outreach programs to raise the profile of American culture and education in countries around the globe – often bringing in top artistic and academic talent to work with local high school students.

When DFAIT holds a major Imagine Canada education event in Lagos, as it did this past January in a venue where the air conditioning is hit and miss, it not only wouldn’t provide any food for the university and college representatives who paid thousands of dollars and came all the way from Canada – it said it couldn’t even provide water. It was deemed to be “not in the budget” by DFAIT officials in Nigeria to offer to the parched representatives.

“Put it in the feedback form,” was the best advice and the closest thing offered as relief from junior staffers in Lagos.

Is a glass of water really a big deal ?

It is a ‘canary-in the-coal-mine’ example of how far Canada has to go to achieve the kind of brand consistency and recognition that befits the magnitude of the opportunity Canada has before it.

Even the February 2013 DFAIT press release trumpeting the success of Minister Fast’s trade mission to Africa which saw the minister cross paths with the Imagine Canada events on at least one occasion in Abuja, made absolutely no mention of the education outreach events at all.

If the doubling of international student numbers is achieved in Canada by 2022, it means an estimated $18 billion contribution to the Canadian economy in that year, 2022, alone. That’s big picture and big ideas and not a scenario where you can’t provide water for a few Canadians who are working to capitalize on Canada’s moment in the sun and multi-billion dollar pay-off.

On the same weekend as the Canadian education fair in Nairobi, the US State Department flew in top Broadway performers to work with and perform for local high school students. The concert sponsored by the US State Department, hosted by a local high school, Rosslyn Academy, and featuring 3-time Academy Award and 3-time Grammy award-winning Broadway composer and lyricist, Stephen Schwartz and Broadway performer, Michael McCorry Rose. The high-powered Broadway duo had spent the better part of a week working with local high musical talents, talents that were also guest featured in the concert – spreading the EducationUSA brand in their wake.

Americans have been drinking in success in international education for generations and no doubt, they had plenty of water available to them during their performance.

Related links:

Harper Government Highlights Economic Impact of International Students in Canada, DFAIT Press Release, July 27, 2012:

DFAIT Advisory Council Report on International Education, August 2012:

Minister Fast Concludes Successful Trade Mission to Africa, DFAIT Press Release, February 1, 2013:

1 comment

#1Daniel CostelloMarch 27, 2013, 3:21 am

Korea is another great example of DFAIT inability to fathom the marketing approaches of even it’s primary competitor for undergraduates there Austrade. Korea is one of Canada’s largest international education markets and has been so for nearly twenty years. With over 22,000 Canadians in the country the only efforts at cross-institutional networking is through the Canadian Chamber of Commerce where gala events are three times the cost of Korea Australia Alumni activities. Canada should already have a cross-institutional alumni association in Korea among its own expats and financed and managed by DFAIT but it does not mirroring the regional and at odds provincial approach to educational networking back home. Personally, such an approach appears quite witless.

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