Why Canada should recruit thousands more international students every year

A new crown corporation would woo foreign students and send more Canadian students abroad

Canada should set up a new Crown corporation tasked with attracting international students to its universities, according to a new report commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and the Canadian International Council (CIC).

Time for a Fresh Curriculum suggests that Canada can capture a larger share of the international student market, with the country currently ranked eighth by number  of students. There’s money to be made from foreign education-seekers: the U.S., for instance, takes in more than twice as many as Canada.

Chart showing economic benefits from international students

Canada has several advantages in the competition for the world’s best and brightest young people, including immigration policies that incentivize higher education and youth. But the report suggests that Canada needs to work harder at attracting and welcoming international students, particularly in light of recent political squabbles over immigration:

Experience has already shown that a steady advance in foreign student numbers cannot be taken for granted. The flow is vulnerable to a number of factors, including unpredictable shifts in public opinion on such emotive issues as immigration and preferential treatment of foreigners in the workplace. Canada has yet to experience such a backlash, but the recent furor over temporary foreign workers and simmering resentment in some quarters against immigrants could sour the mood towards foreign students.

The proposed Education Canada would also be tasked with encouraging more Canadian students to look abroad when considering their post-secondary options. These ‘young ambassadors,’ the report claims, will help improve relations by strengthening education and cultural links between host and home nations. Canada’s post-secondary education system has come under increasing scrutiny in recent times, with questions about the continuing value of a university degree and outrage in some quarters about tuition levels.

Exporting more of our disaffected young people and importing bright young foreign students will not immediately solve those problems, but the report suggests it might just help Canada’s economy, and improve its global standing to boot.