Canada: Student group calls for improved supports

SummaryThe number of international students moving to Canada has grown quickly over the past years. Presently, a Canadian Student Association is calling for work opportunities, strengthened support services, immigration pathways, and scholarships for foreign students in the country.

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations or CASA is a group of 270,000 post-secondary students that has introduced a report calling for support for foreign students studying in Canada. Their report talks about adding value to international students in Canada beyond the dollars and contribute towards their support. The number of international students in Canada is growing exponentially and it is for this reason that the CASA group has released such a report. It requires Canadian colleges, universities, and schools to adapt to changing campus dynamics.

According to the CASA report, the government of Canada considers talented foreign students as perfect candidates for immigration and it is, therefore, vital to alleviate skills shortages in the Canadian workforce. Their report notes that while Canadian universities and colleges are actively recruiting international students to their campuses, the numbers alone are not enough to tell the entire story. Ultimately, it is essential for the Canadian government to enroll international students only if they can offer them rich positive experiences of studying, living, and working in the country.

As stated in the report, “attracting more foreign students is directly related to the ability of Canadian post-secondary institutions, the provincial government, and the federal government to make Canada more attractive, respected and a quality destination for academic qualifications and overall career development of such students.”

Affordability and Cost of Studying in Canada

The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) has conducted recent research that shows the satisfaction level of international students with their studies in Canada is high. But still, there are certain areas where there is scope for improvement. While 93% are satisfied, only 55% are highly satisfied.

In particular, eight out of ten students confirmed that they are concerned about paying for accommodation and a substantial part of the students had not found employment during their studies, particularly paid employment that can help them with meeting their additional expenses.

While affordability remains a major point of concern among some of the foreign students, the increasing tuition fees, which the international students pay to Canadian universities is also becoming a big challenge. The fact is that the rate at which the tuition fee is increasing is greater than Canadian students’ fees. This can be clearly seen from the statistical report from CASA where the tuition fee for domestic students was $5,767 and for foreign students was $19,416 in 2013-14. It has now increased to $6,571 for domestic students in Canada and to $25,180 for foreign students in Canada. It is a clear indication of high tuition fee charged by foreign students by Canadian institutions.

With such high tuition fees, the scope for students to apply to Canadian institutions has narrowed down to a great extent. It is because only students belonging to wealthy households can afford such a high fee. Unless there are enough scholarships available so that foreign students with a strong academic background but less money can apply to Canadian universities. The CASA report asserts that such scholarships are not plentiful enough.

The team further states that “a lack of proper funding opportunities prevents the enrolment of foreign students who might offer lots of quality of post-secondary education in the country, but belong to lower-income backgrounds.”

An Emerging Challenge – Issues with Social Integration

The CASA report highlights another difficulty, which is also mentioned in the CBIE research that states in addition to affordability, social integration is becoming a new challenge for many foreign students. More than a quarter of students enrolling in the CBIE survey agreed that they are finding it difficult in getting involved in the campus activities. The CASA group notes that when students are not satisfied and happy socially at school, it can directly affect their determination to stay further in the country to work or immigrate.

Also read: Experience of Studying in the UK

They stated, “International students facing increasing difficulties with social integration is a major concern that needs to be quickly addressed as this will influence their decisions about whether to stay and work in the country following graduation based on their study experiences. Also, foreign students encounter challenges when looking out to work while studying in Canada.”

In this concern, the CASA report suggests some key recommendations or ideas make it easier for overseas students to work and/or immigrate to Canada.

Key Recommendations from CASA

The CASA group has made numerous recommendations in their report, such as:

  • More on-campus support for international students in various fields like counseling, writing centers, advising, and more. Also, offering a more valuable approach to internationalization so that Canadian students benefit more from the exposure and presence of international students on campus.
  • Clear explanations of visa processes for partners or spouses of international students. At the same time, more understanding in general that a higher number of international students would prefer overseas education in Canada and potentially stay on to work with their partners.
  • Faster and smoother immigration processes enabling foreign students to work easily while studying.
  • Better accessibility for foreign students from different economic backgrounds through scholarships based on merit and needs. There must also be specific funding introduced for refugee students.
  • Introducing co-op internships and full-time elective internships of up to one year for foreign graduate students.
  • Extending off-campus work rights for part-time international students.
  • Extending the period of stay from 90 days to 6 months where international graduates can stay in the country and search for work. This will better reflect the average time needed to get a job.
  • Introduction of new and more entrepreneurship programs and start-ups for overseas students to start businesses in Canada.
  • Adjustments in the policy that see the government apply foreign student’s time studying toward their citizenship eligibility and other numerous recommendations to make the immigration process easier for international students.
  • Stricter regulation on international branch campuses established by Canadian institutions in other countries.

Visit the link to read the full CASA report.

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