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Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Doubling the number of international students in Canada. Is it nonsense ?

Doubling the number of international students in Canada in the next ten years ? Adding more than 200,000 new international students to Canada is called a realistic goal by the federal government commissioned report on Canada’s international education strategy. Realistic ? Or nonsense ?

It all depends on how you look at it.

It’s nonsense if you understand how both global education and Canada, each work. International student recruiting is a highly competitive endeavour. Other than hockey, Canada doesn’t compete at the level of intensity required to be a leader for international student recruitment. Meanwhile, Canada’s competitors blow it away in terms of how much they spend and how much emphasis they apply to having success.

It’s not nonsense if you understand the politics of making a bold statement which has no real sticking power. In reality, it doesn’t really matter. You can say what you want and no one will hold you to your word.

It’s nonsense if you realize that the biggest chunk of the market for undergraduate university degrees is mediocre students. Canada’s public universities are simply too high an academic standard for 80% of the market.

It’s not nonsense if you understand how quickly universities will sell their academic souls for the cash needed to balance budgets.

It’s nonsense if you know that the bulk of the international student recruitment business is for graduate students, and you also know of the walls put up around faculties of grad studies at most Canadian universities to limit enrollments.

It’s not nonsense if you see the immense growth of professional masters programs in Canada, established as a separate entity from university politics and labour regulations, so they can grow as businesses first and academic programs second.

It’s nonsense if you examine the miniscule budgets which Canadian universities and colleges operate within international arenas.

It’s not nonsense if you examine the dire financial implications facing universities and colleges coming face to face with paying off pension plans of a faculty and administration who are handsomely paid.

It’s nonsense if you see what happened in Australia and the UK, where they have hundreds of institutions which will literally admit anyone. The result is tens of thousands of bogus students, growing social unrest, a backlash against foreign students, and a revelation to many on just how many of these nations’ institutions are embroiled in fraud.

It’s not nonsense if you understand the dilution of academic quality at all levels of Canada’s post-secondary education system. Canadian colleges and many universities have dumbed down entrance standards so they can say yes to students paying higher international tuition fees.

It’s nonsense if you know what a lack of professional business conduct regularly exhibited by Canadian universities and colleges – and whereas success in any global undertaking requires a decidedly acute business acumen.

It’s not nonsense if you see how helpless Canadian institutions are as prey for the business plans of slick private academic providers promising easy profits in order to piggyback high priced but low end academic programs on a university’s perceived brand for integrity.

It’s nonsense if you know how conservative Canada’s student visa regime is, and how many visa posts in key markets around the world are still staffed by a gate-keeping mentality to keep many would-be students out.

It’s not nonsense if you’ve seen the shocking numbers the Student Partner Program has brought to Canada. The SPP was born out of political pressure to serve community colleges partnering with agents in north India and has resulted in unprecedented numbers of Indian students in Canada, even if significant numbers of them are not in classes.

To summarize, the real nonsense is anyone who believes you can have quality and quantity of international students in Canada and preserve academic integrity of high standards. That race is over, and it’s not just that quantity won – it’s that quality pulled out of the competition.

1 comment

#1oldhandOctober 16, 2012, 3:12 pm

plus ça change…… Canadian HEIs and governments sauntering into the international field have perennially proven naïve/unrealistic. Canada is a
nice, safe country – who wouldn’t want o come here?

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About Mel

Mel has consulted universities, colleges, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of international education since 1997. He is co-founder of Higher-Edge, the parent of Overseas, Overwhelmed, and a director of the Canadian University Application Centre. He is a former award-winning CBC reporter and holds a Masters degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

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