Lethbridge Herald: Program looks to attract more international students

The Harper government is hoping to attract more students to Canada from overseas and that could ultimately benefit the University of Lethbridge.

Ed Fast, international trade minister, launched the International Education Strategy (IES) Wednesday morning. The program’s goal is to double the number of international students studying in Canada to more than 450,000 by 2022. Efforts will be concentrated in six key markets including India, Brazil, China, Vietnam, Mexico and North Africa/the Middle East. The strategy will also support Canadian students studying abroad.

Fast said he wants to reach the 2022 goal while preserving current seat space in post-secondary institutions for Canadian students.

“Around the world Canada is known for its education and research. If we have the federal support on recruitment and getting our brand out there I think it’s doable,” said Paul Pan, director of the U of L’s International Centre for Students.

About 500 international students are studying at the U of L, nearly six per cent of the total student population. The IES meshes with goals outlined in the U of L’s new 2014-19 strategic plan.

“Currently the institution is developing an internationalization plan,” Pan said, adding the plan covers international students who want to study in Canada, domestic students who want to study abroad and international research partnerships. “We want to educate global citizens here.”

The government plans to spend $5 million annually to support the program. Another $13 million will be spent over two years on the Mitacs Globalink international research internship program. The U of L has had four international students through Mitacs.

“We have lots of initiatives that are similar and the U of L is part of a lot of these initiatives that are outlined in the (IES) document,” Pan said.

The U of L is working toward meeting the Canadian institutional average of having international students comprise between eight and nine per cent of the total student population. That would mean an increase to about 800 international students in the next five years.

In terms of marketing the U of L participates in initiatives that promote Canadian education internationally, such as education fairs.

“We also focus on targeting specific international schools in certain countries,” Pan said. “Essentially in each country there is a different marketing strategy. For example in north and south China how you market is very different.”

Pan said the government’s support of international education is a good sign. International students expose domestic students to different cultures and help them learn about the world. They also enrich the entire city as they typically live and shop here for four years.

By: Caroline Zentner