New York Times – Surge in Number of Indian Students Heading to Canadian Colleges


NEW DELHI — Canada, which has long promoted its eagerness to attract foreigners, is experiencing a surge in the number of Indian students heading there for higher education. Besides the country’s positive attitude toward outsiders, the chief attractions for Indian students are the lower costs for both tuition and living expenses, in addition to its lenient visa requirements, according to students and consultants who advise them about overseas study options.
The number of Canadian student visas issued in India jumped to more than 12,000 in 2010, from 3,152 in 2008.
While applications have increased at all levels, growth has been greatest at community colleges, which typically offer career-focused certificate and diploma programs, according to Simon Cridland, a spokesman at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi.
“They offer very practical training that is very job-market focused,” he said, adding that courses range from highly technical subjects like aircraft maintenance and computer animation to sports management and hospitality.
Shreya Dasgupta, a recent high school graduate from New Delhi, plans to start studying economics and business at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus this fall. Ms. Dasgupta, 18, said that while she did not have a strong preference for any one country, she found Canada’s relatively liberal visa rules attractive.
“I think it’s easier than the United States,” she said. “Plus, you do have job opportunities later on. In the U.S., it’s very expensive and it’s not sure that you’ll get a job.”
Kartik Rao, who has been admitted to an M.B.A. program at Concordia University in Montreal, also said that Canada is more welcoming. Irrespective of my getting a job, I have a three-year work visa which will allow me to work, which will in turn allow me to pay back my loan,” he said. Mr. Rao, 25, estimates that his business degree in Canada will cost 35 percent to 40 percent less than what it would cost in the United States or in Britain. Also driving his optimism is the belief that employment prospects in Canada are better.
“The financial downturn has forced people to look for new avenues,” he said. “Canada was not as badly affected, which really tilted people’s views about Canada.”
Also, warming political ties have raised the country’s profile in India. Among the agreements signed during a visit to Canada last summer by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a pact on broadening ties in higher education. To promote this initiative, 15 university presidents from Canada visited India last November.
Last month, the heads of dozens of Indian universities participated in a high level meeting at Carleton University in Ottawa to explore possibilities for increased collaboration.
“There is increasing awareness of what kinds of experience and expertise are available in the Canadian higher education system,” said Gail Bowkett, the assistant director for international relations at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “Indian students can find pretty much any niche that they are looking for.”
As part of its effort to showcase the variety of academic programs, Canada has launched a program for Indian students to complete three- to four-month paid research internships at leading Canadian universities. In 2010, 105 students from the prestigious Indian Institutes of  Technology were chosen for the all-expenses-paid program. They travelled to British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick to conduct research.
Ms. Bowkett said the positive experience of these elite students has been a huge image booster.  “The program exposes them to faculty and facilities, and those students are going back to India and it spreads like wildfire by word of mouth when they go back.”
Also, starting in 2009, the Canadian visa offices in India started to increase the promotion of community colleges. According to Mr. Cridland, the jump in applications to these institutions is a sign that Indians who normally send their children overseas for a university degree are now open to the idea of also sending them to community colleges. 
For instance, a course in accounting or public relations “can be an additional qualification that complements a university degree, or it can be a stand-alone qualification, depending on the needs of the student,” he said.