Canada, International Education

Canadian student associations affirm international students’ need for support

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a group representing 270,000 higher education students, has issued a report drawing attention to the need of international students for a more positive study and work-life experience.

Canada’s international student population has been steadily growing in the last few years and makes up 11% of post-secondary education students. The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) reported a 119% increase in just seven years, from 2010 to 2017. The Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) likewise reported an exponential growth in international student numbers with the country surpassing its International Education Strategy goal of 450,000 by 2022.

“High-achieving international students are vital to enhancing the skills of Canada’s existing workforce especially in industries that require specialisations. Thus, we have been recruiting a good number of talented international students to Arbutus College and Acsenda School of Management and equipping them with the knowledge and skills to be job-ready,” says Tanja Milosevic, recruitment and marketing director for both institutions.

The CASA report, Value Beyond the Dollars and Cents: International Students’ Contributions to Canada and Their Need for Supports, lobbied for more support services for international students and cited the study done by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) where improvements are required. The report notes that eight in 10 students surveyed said that they were concerned about their ability to pay for accommodation while 43% of those who have not yet found employment during their studies were having difficulty finding paid employment.

The report further says that some international students are concerned about affordability especially with the increasing rate of tuition fees and miscellaneous expenses vis-à-vis the local Canadian students. The average undergraduate tuition in 2013-2014 was CA$5,767 for Canadian students and CA$19,416 for international students. This has risen significantly in 2017-2018 whereby the average was CA$6,571 for Canadian students and CA$25,180 for international students.

Key recommendations

Among the recommendations of the CASA are:

  1. More supports on campus for international students (e.g., writing centres, counselling, advising) as well as a more meaningful approach to internationalisation so that Canadian students benefit more from the presence of international students on campus;

  2. More straightforward explanations of visa processes for spouses/partners of international students, and more understanding in general that many international students would prefer coming to Canada to study (and potentially stay on to work) with their partners as opposed to by themselves;

  3. ‘Greater accessibility for international students from all economic backgrounds’ through new scholarships based on merit and need, as well as specific funding for refugee students;

  4. Faster immigration processes allowing international students to work while studying;

  5. The extension of off-campus work rights for part-time international students;

  6. The introduction of full-time elective internships or co-op internships of up to a year for international graduate students;

  7. An extension of the period of time in which international graduates can remain in the country to look for work from 90 days to 6 months, ‘to better reflect the average time it takes to get a job’;

  8. An adjustment of policy that would see the government apply international students’ time studying toward their citizenship eligibility (as well as several other recommendations around making it easier for international students to immigrate);

  9. More start-up and entrepreneurship programmes for international graduates to start businesses in Canada; and

  10. Tighter regulation around international branch campuses set up by Canadian institutions in other countries.