With competition for the world's talent increasing, Canada should strengthen its efforts to recruit international students, with a goal of doubling their number within a decade, recommends a report released on Tuesday by an advisory panel to the Canadian government.
What's more, the report says, the country should significantly increase the number of Canadians studying abroad by providing financial aid, and the prime minister should play a leading role as the "unifying champion" for international education.
The 122-page report, entitled "International Education: A Key Driver of Canada's Future Prosperity," says that international students are key contributors to Canada's economy. It offers 14 recommendations as a blueprint for attracting high-quality foreign students and internationalizing education.
The government set up the five-member panel on international education last year. It was led by Amit Chakma, president of University of Western Ontario, and it consulted widely with international-education players in the country.
"We feel the recommendations are doable, but it is up to the government to take the next step," Mr. Chakma told The Chronicle. "There are many obstacles. It's not just about money. The Canadian system is complex—there are interprovincial issues, for example—but there's tremendous energy across our community."
For their part, government officials said they would consider the panel's suggestions and stressed that developing an international-education strategy is a key part of their economic plans.
"Attracting the best and brightest to Canada, deepening the ties between Canadian and international-educational institutions, and highlighting Canada's research excellence abroad are key to Canada's long-term prosperity," said Edward Fast, Canada's international-trade minister.
Among its recommendations, the report urges the federal government and academic institutions to jointly finance study-abroad scholarships, with the aim of getting 50,000 Canadian students to go abroad every year.
The report recommends building on existing international-education efforts in Canada and ensuring that recent gains in the number of foreign students continue to grow. "Our specific goal is to double the number of quality international students within 10 years, from 239,000 today, with a focus on attracting top talent who will either decide to make Canada their home or return to their home countries as leaders of the future," says the report.
To reach the goal of enrolling at least 450,000 foreign students, the report suggests offering at least 8,000 undergraduate scholarships and increasing the number of graduate and postgraduate scholarships and fellowships. The report does not say how much that would cost, but it makes clear that federal support for scholarships—for foreign students coming to Canada and for Canadians who want to study abroad—would probably be doubled because of matching funds from the provincial governments and from private donors.
Academics in Canada hailed the recommendations. "Canada needs these kinds of bold initiatives and investments in order to succeed in a very competitive marketplace in international education," Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, said in a written statement. "These are achievable goals. This is a plan that will help to align national strategies for economic development, science and technology, global commerce, immigration, and the labour market."
In its report, the panel suggests setting up a policy council on international education and research that would include officials from various government ministries to coordinate education, immigration, and economic policies. The idea has been applauded by most international-education organizations in Canada.
The report also suggests that priority should be placed on recruiting in developing nations, including Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Vietnam, and several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, like Turkey. However, it stresses that stepping up recruitment in those areas should not mean reducing efforts to attract students from the countries Canada has traditionally drawn from, including Britain, France, South Korea, and the United States.