Federal officials unveil International Education Strategy

The federal government wants Canada’s postsecondary institutions to make a play for the world’s best and brightest students and researchers. And as of Wednesday morning, there’s a strategy in place to accomplish the task.

Canada’s International Education Strategy: Harnessing Our Knowledge Advantage to Drive Innovation and Prosperity aims to attract more international students and researchers to Canada, setting targets for each, while deepening the research links between Canadian and foreign educational institutions. Among the objectives of the strategy is also a desire to establish a pan-Canadian partnership with provinces and territories as well as key education stakeholders.

“Attracting more international students and researchers to Canada and supporting Canadian students abroad will foster innovation and create jobs and opportunities in every region of the country,” said Ed Fast, minister of international trade.

The strategy was announced Wednesday during an event at the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Among the goals of Canada’s International Education Strategy is a push to double the number of international students coming to Canada by 2022, without displacing Canadian students.

By attracting more than 450,000 international students and researchers by 2022, federal officials said Canada will gain at least 86,500 net new jobs. The nation will see international student expenditures rise to more than $16 billion and an approximate $10 billion annual boost to the economy.

Ongoing funding of $5 million annually will go toward supporting the strategy initiatives, as outlined in Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013.

“International education is a key driver of the Canadian economy,” said Amit Chakma, Western president and chair of the Advisory Panel on Canada’s International Education Strategy. “By supporting the vast majority of our recommendations, and by setting clear targets for growth, this comprehensive strategy will strengthen Canada’s leadership position in this vital sector and deepen ties between Canadian and international postsecondary institutions, while sowing the seeds of economic growth and prosperity across Canada.”

Chakma noted international enrolment at Western has jumped from 3 per cent to just short of 10 per cent in recent years – indicating this as evidence Canada is fast becoming an educational destination of choice.

The strategy will also provide $13 million over two years to the Globallink program of Mitacs, a national not-for-profit that fosters innovation through research and training. The program facilitates student mobility between Canada and Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam.

Given the opportunities the strategy lays out, there is potential for job creation and economic growth, federal officials said.

“This plan is rooted in Canada’s already strong economic leadership on the world stage and is further proof of the expertise and capabilities Canadians have to offer,” said Jim Flaherty, Canada’s minister of finance.

“Furthermore, the plan is firmly grounded in our government’s focus on creating jobs and opportunities and our commitment to return to balanced budgets in the short term. By making the right investments and working with the right partners, we will create thousands of new jobs and add billions of dollars to our economy over the long term.”