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When it comes to popular study destinations Canada has recently climbed on the top of the world as 3rd favourite study destinations followed by USA and UK.
This report highlights the salient features of the Canadian higher education sector and how Canada has redefined its positioning in international education to become a world leader in less than a decade.
Canada’s strong growth in international education is mainly attributed to its focus on internationalisation which is a key to the success of higher education in the 21st century, and Canadian institutions are no exception to this global trend. Canada has taken several initiatives towards internationalisation related to student and faculty mobility, international research partnerships and internationalisation of curricula across Canadian post-secondary institutions. This was stated by CBIE, the Canadian Bureau for International Education, a national non-profit platform and membership organisation exclusively dedicated to the advancement of international education in Canada.
It is pertinent to mention that Canada is unique when it comes to governing education as there is no ministry or department of education at the federal level. Education is the responsibility of each province or territory giving them the freedom to develop their own systems, policies, curriculum and focus on respective specialty/research relevant to their own provincial industry, trade and economical objectives. The development of international education began its journey as early as 2011, when Canada’s Economic Action Plan allocated funding for this purpose and the ministry of Trade and Finance recommended to constitute an advisory panel to develop a policy framework and mechanism to maximise economic opportunities for Canada through the international education sector. The 6-member advisory panel was headed by Dr Amit Chakma, President Western Ontario University and included eminent and senior academics and educationists from reputable education institutions and associations.
The mandate of this panel was “internationalising education in Canada” should become a strategic component of the federal government’s official policies and plans. It defined internationalisation as “the process of bringing an international dimension into the teaching, research and service activities of Canadian institutions” with the following core objectives: Strengthening engagement with emerging and key markets; focusing on attracting the best and brightest international students; encouraging Canadians to study abroad; expanding the delivery of Canadian education services abroad; and building, expanding and ensuring greater partnerships between Canadian and international educational institutions.
The education sector across all provinces and territories took the challenge focusing on the growth of international education aligning its marketing and internationalisation policies to meet the goals and objectives set out or recommended by the advisory panel. The most important task was to increase international students from base of 239,131 in 2011 to 450,000 by 2022 (without displacing Canadian students).
In 2014, Canada’s first federal international education strategy IES was released, which also marked a milestone in Canadian internationalisation. The primary goal of IES was to double the numbers of international students in Canada by 2022. Canada is celebrating having surpassed that target in 2017 when it enrolled 494,525 international students, an increase of 20% over the previous year. Canada added almost 80,000 students to reach a total of 572,415 at a growth rate of 16.3% more than the previous year at the end of 2018. International students in Canada are of national priority, said one senior educationist to me at the last CBIE conference. Canada is also the top country which has one of the most diverse international student population with 186 nations represented in 2017.
The Government of Canada contributed hugely towards this tremendous growth making it easier for students to remain in the country, both during the study and after the graduation. International students also consider Canada a welcoming and friendly environment, finding themselves ready and able to adapt to the diverse, vibrant cultures found in most Canadian cities. In addition to the high academic standards, beautiful natural landscapes, unforgettable student experiences and more it is no wonder so many international students are drawn to studying in Canada. However, the key factor remains its strategy which includes significant funding for market diversification and allocation of more budgets to extend Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS) which allows students who submit applications electronically and meet additional upfront requirements to access faster visa processing times.
Good news came for Pakistan that SDS was expanded this year alongside China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines. More source countries are expected to come under SDS by 2024.
In this context, I recently had an opportunity of meeting the Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan Wendy Gilmour who shared her views on Canada’s tremendous success in international education and the opportunities it has to offer Pakistani students. Replying to a question she said, Pakistani students have been welcomed to Canada for many years and there are eminent Pakistani leaders, politicians in all walks of life who have studied in Canada. She added there is already established connection between the two countries.
Wendy Gilmour emphasised that we need to see more Pakistani students going to Canada having the right credentials, financial means and background to be able to do well in a Canadian setting. Answering a question on SDS, she said the Student Direct Stream will allow students from Pakistan to join the fast track visa processing times that are already in place for Philippines, Vietnam, India and China. She, however, stressed that to qualify for SDS the students need to demonstrate their academic eligibility and substantial financial means to support themselves through prescribed bank account, a general investment certificate in Canada etc., are available for that student to draw once in Canada for their studies.
I thought it is important to further elaborate the pre-requisites for students to qualify to apply for their study permits under the Student Direct Stream now available for Pakistanis.
*You must have an unconditional offer of acceptance from a recognised Canadian institution for a full time programme.
*You should have appropriate English language proficiency certification such as an IELTS/ TOEFL to a required level.
*You should be in possession of an official receipt of a full year tuition fees / deposit from a Canadian institution.
*You must purchase Government Investment Certificate (GIC) to act as a proof of funds to cover your living expenses of first year of your stay in Canada for the amount of CAD$ 10,000/- or as specified by IRCC Canada for the specific province of arrival.
*You should clearly demonstrate through bank statements that you have the financial means to cover any extra financial obligations / travel and other expenses associated with your education.
Pakistani students may find Canada as a favourite and important destination due to the range of advantages it offers during studies and after graduation in becoming part of the Canadian economy or even returning back to Pakistan with a high quality and recognised qualification. “Supporting international learning experiences through study and work integrated learning is one of the best ways to reinforce the values of openness and inclusion that are the hallmark of Canada’s success as a diverse society.” Canada is also known for its unique co-op degree programmes, when asked about the importance of such programmes Wendy Gilmour explained co-op education is a structured method of combining classroom based education with practical work experience. For example, one term in the classroom in an education setting and in the next term they may go off and spend the time with industry or public sector relevant to their respective programmes. It works as a bridge between the employer, the student and the academic institution. International students can greatly benefit from such courses not only due to the paid work involved, it provides them an opportunity to get the Canadian workplace experience and make relevant connections to find future job opportunities once they graduate. In this context she mentioned Waterloo University as being the pioneer in offering co-op programmes besides other universities in Canada.
To summarise, Canada has now become an emerging study destination which Pakistani students should consider when exploring their higher studies opportunities abroad. It offers diplomas, undergraduate, postgraduate/research degrees in almost every discipline. However, it has a world competitive and leading edge in Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Molecular Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Nuclear Engineering, Climate Change, Clean Engineering and Pharmaceutical Science etc. The advantage to international students are already described above but the most important being the flexible immigration rules that allow you to apply for work permit and settlement upon graduation and to develop a professional career in world’s most advanced country.
The author is an educationist, career counsellor and analyst with more than 25 years of relevant experience and can be reached at [email protected]
(Syed Azhar Husnain Abidi is a renowned educationist in Pakistan, with more than 20 years of experience as provider of education counselling services. He has represented Pakistan in over 100 national and international seminars, conferences and fora. He is a recipient of the most coveted civil award Tamgha-e-Imtiaz).