Canada must attract foreign students to fuel innovation, drive economy: report
Canada should double the number of international students choosing to study here by 2020, a new report commissioned by the federal government says.
The task force responsible for the report, headed up by Western University president Amit Chakma, wants Ottawa to boost the number of international students from approximately 239,130 to 450,000 without taking away coveted university seats from its own Canadian students.
The 122-page report titled International Education, a Key Driver of Canada’s Future Prosperity, released Tuesday, says Canada must invest in attracting students to fuel innovation and drive economic prosperity.
The task force also recommended creating 50,000 opportunities per year for Canadian students to go abroad for study and cultural exchanges
With billions of dollars at stake, the Conservatives put aside $10-million in their 2011 budget for the advisory panel on attracting the top young talent globally, and to close the gap between Canada and countries such as the U.S., Britain and Australia which have had several years of a head start.
International students inject billions of dollars into the domestic economy of these countries. In Canada alone, international students spent $8-billion in 2010, upwards from $6.5-billion in 2008.
The total amount spent by international students in Canada is greater than the country's export of unwrought aluminum at $6-billion and of helicopters, airplanes and spacecraft at $6.9-billion.
Over 50 per cent of international students in Canada are from Asian countries, with China, India and South Korea leading the way.
But even aside from the immediate cash infusion into Canada's domestic economy, international students are often seen as prime candidates as future immigrants for a booming labour market in the west, who need to establish Canadian credentials and work experience for successful application. Even if these students return home, they will have built ties to Canada that may develop into business opportunities and diplomatic relations, and generally raise Canada's profile abroad.
Take Brazil, for example: Over the next four years, the Brazilian government will spend $2-billion to help send more than 100,000 of its best students to universities globally to help forge future economic ties. Canada will receive about 12,000 of them; the second-highest total of all recipient countries.
The competition was already fierce for international students, but it's heating up.
Countries such as India and China - Canada's top supply of international students - are trying to reverse the brain drain. In 2011, India increased higher education spending by 30 per cent in the hopes of keeping their brightest young minds from leaving, but also boosting recruitment from the very countries that have been luring away those students.
The Chinese government has set a goal of enrolling 500,000 international students in their universities by 2020, twice the number it now hosts and in excess of those it sends abroad.
I guess our own people aren't good enough.