As Canada becomes one of the world’s leading study destinations, international students currently enrolled are calling for more support to live, study and work within the country.
According to the report by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), the experience of international students in Canada should be viewed beyond the growing recruitment numbers and tuition fees they bring.
Titled Value Beyond the Dollars and Cents: International Students’ Contributions to Canada and their Need for Supports, the report argues that post-secondary institutions have a duty to deliver a high-quality, innovative academic experience to all students, including those from abroad.
“Attracting more international students, it is clear, is directly tied to the ability of Canadian post-secondary institutions, as well as provincial and federal levels of government, to make the case for Canada as an appealing, respected and top-quality destination for academic pursuits and career development.
“While branding campaigns are often the focus, there is a more straightforward way to appeal to international students: by ensuring that those who study in Canada truly experience an education
of the highest quality in a welcoming, supportive and inclusive environment wherein they are fully appreciated and valued.”
Canada hosted 353,000 international students in 2015, up several times from the 84,000 recorded a decade ago. A substantial number remained after graduation, either for employment or through gaining permanent residence status.
Challenges this group of students face range from the financial to visa application processes. Tuition fees for all post-secondary students have risen across the board in recent decades, and obstacles remain in the application process when obtaining visas for themselves and their family members.
Lack of funding also means Canada struggles to benefit from the enrolment of students from lower income backgrounds.
The report also found social and academic barriers faced by international students, such as difficulty integrating into campus life and the local community.
In light of the above, CASA recommends that more on-campus support is provided (eg. writing centres, counseling, advising) and a more straightforward approach towards visa processes for spouses/partners of international students. It also calls for more scholarships for lower-income and refugee students.
In terms of working rights, the group makes several recommendations: faster immigration process for international students to work while studying; extension of off-campus work rights for part-time international students; and introduction of full-time elective internships or co-op internships of up to a year for international graduate students.
It also called for international students to be offered an extension that allows them to remain in Canada to look for work from 90 days to six months after course completion, “to better reflect the average time it takes to get a job.”
CASA represents more than 200,000 post-secondary students in Canada.