Vancouver Sun – B.C. sets sights on 47,000 international students

By Jonathan Fowlie

Government earmarks $5 million for scholarships and internships over next four years   

Premier Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government will today commit $5 million toward scholarships and research internships as it unveils details of how it plans to attract 47,000 additional international students into the province over the next four years.

“[International education] is one of the eight sectors in the BC Jobs Plan,” Minister of Advanced Education Naomi Yamamoto said in an inter-view Friday, adding the sector brings significant investment into local economies.

“We want to increase, in the next four years, the number of international students that come to British Columbia by 50 per cent,” she added.

That target means B.C. has to increase the number of students it attracts by 47,000 over four years. It says almost half of that increase will come from enrolments in private-language schools, 30 per cent from public post-secondary institutions, 12 per cent from private post-secondary and 13 per cent in K-12.

In an effort to achieve those targets, the province will give a one-time $700,000 grant to a program that helps attract and support international students to do research internships at B.C. universities.

It will also grant $2.3 million to a program that helps graduate students from both B.C. and abroad undertake research internships in the province.

Both of these programs will be delivered by Mitacs, a B.C. based not-for-profit research organization that works with both academia and industry.

“The main thing we’re thinking about at Mitacs is how to create the knowledge workforce of the future, so we think about how to train graduate students in partnership with industry, we think about the types of people that Canada needs to attract as knowledge workers,” Arvind Gupta, CEO and scientific director of Mitacs, said in an interview Friday.

“My goal is to have so many people wanting to come to Canada that we cherry pick who we want,” he added, saying the B.C. government has been very supportive of his organization’s efforts.

In a related move, the government will also give $2 mil-lion for a grant program to help B.C. post-secondary students pursue an education abroad.

“Our strategy is not just attracting students from other countries to B.C., although that is our focus,” said Yamamoto. “We’ve also invested money to provide opportunities for our own domestic students”

Asked if today’s funding will be enough to meet the province’s ambitious targets, Yamamoto said she believes it will be a good complement to what is already happening.

“There’s a lot of resources already spent. We just need to, as government, look at maximizing that effectively,” said Yamamoto. “It would be great to be able to say we want to throw a tonne of money at this, but we actually already see that there’s a lot of money already being spent.”

Yamamoto added the strategy to be released today includes numerous other measures, such as helping schools and communities across B.C. pro-vide the best possible programs for international students.

“A lot of our communities do it really, really well and some don’t do it well at all,” she said.

“We know there’s capacity for growth,” she added, saying government plans to develop a variety of partnerships and mentorships across the education sector to help smaller schools develop programs.

The strategy also promises that government will look at new legislation or new regulations on quality assurance to help ensure high standards are met across the province.

The strategy also says government will embark on a marketing strategy to increase inter-national awareness of B.C. as an education destination.

There are about 3.3 million international students in the world now, and by 2025 the number is expected to reach 7.2 million.

B.C. now attracts about 94,000 international students to the province.