Canadian university students are more likely to have studied abroad than their American counterparts, and more than a quarter say they are seriously considering overseas study, according to a national survey.
Of the nearly 3,000 respondents, 9 percent have studied abroad during the past three years or so. That level of interest appears substantially higher than in the United States, where the percentage of students who go abroad has hovered around 1 percent for several years.
In addition, the new report, by Higher Education Strategy Associates, a research-and-consulting company in Toronto, says 26 percent of students said they might go overseas to study, with Britain and Australia topping their list of destinations. Most said they wanted to travel to an English-speaking country unless they were studying a foreign language. Only 2 percent considered China, and even fewer India or South Africa. (The United States was not considered a foreign-study destination for Canadian students unless it was for a specific education purpose, like gaining teaching qualifications.)
Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates, said the survey's findings suggest that international offices may need to rethink how they work with students. "The results have raised questions about how we promote study abroad on our campuses," he said.
While American and some Canadian educators push study abroad as a way to experience foreign travel for the first time, that may be the wrong approach in Canada. The survey found that 78 percent of the students had already traveled or lived in countries other than the United States or Canada. The survey didn't ask about those trips, some of which could have been for vacations in the Caribbean or Latin America, frequent wintertime destinations for Canadian families.
Another big factor may be that students have family in other countries, Mr. Usher said. "If you look at Toronto-area high schools, more than half those kids either were born outside the country or have parents who were born outside the country, and it's a good bet that most of them would have gone back at some point."
In all, the survey found that Canadian students have a favorable view of non-Canadian students and of internationalization efforts on their campuses.
"By a margin of roughly 2.5 to 1, students agree with the statement that international students enhance the in-class experience," the report says.
Most of the respondents, 93 percent, also said they believed the ability to work in diverse cultural settings was important in getting a job.