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International student enrolment increase good for U of T and Canada

Influx promises not only financial gain, but also cultural growth
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Increases in international student enrollment could increase the burden on resources, such as the Centre for International Experience. HELENA NAJM/THE VARSITY
Increases in international student enrollment could increase the burden on resources, such as the Centre for International Experience. HELENA NAJM/THE VARSITY

U of T is practically bursting with international students, adding to Toronto’s cultural diversity. The Canadian federal government wants to increase the number of  international students coming to the university, aiming to double the current number of international students by 2022.

This announcement is a significant source of controversy for Canadian students, given the possible threat to their participation once there is a surge of international students occupying schools across the country. As an international student, the idea is ultimately welcomed. The direct benefit is obvious: the chances of us studying abroad and competing with North American citizens are increased. But there are wider issues to be considered. Particularly, it will provide Canadian students who don’t get the chance to study abroad with a window to foreign cultures. With amplified globalization taking place, this exposure is not just fun and interesting: it’s necessary.

Yet, is this what the government is really concerned with? In 2012, international students spent $8.4 billion in the Canadian economy, between tuition, accommodations, and additional costs. A policy to increase international student enrolment will feed the nation, creating economic development without exhausting the government’s resources. The government is investing in this policy, as the plan envisions $5 million spent yearly on marketing Canada as an attractive, cultural, and thriving destination for education.

Doubling the number of incoming international students will result in an estimated 450,000 foreign students all over Canada, bringing an estimated $16.1 billion into the economy. This will sustain hundreds of jobs through increased employment at universities, as well as expanded academic opportunities. Furthermore, there will be a cultural boom as foreign students bring their own ideas and perspectives to the country, making universities more open-minded. Establishing global connections is another factor to be considered; Canadians will have more opportunities to work abroad as universities have a chance to team up with other schools internationally. As part of the project, another $13 billion in scholarship funding was promised in the most recent federal budget to bring foreign students here and send Canadians abroad.

From the perspective of an international student, it’s important to take note of Canada’s competition. The US, along with the UK and Australia, offers equally rigorous programs, often at similar tuition fees. European universities in Italy, France, and Scandinavian countries have begun to offer degrees in English, giving ample choice to students pursuing this same path. Canada needs to differentiate itself, and the money being spent under this policy is vital to do so.

Initial reactions to this policy are pessimistic, as it paints the Canadian government in a negative light. Why should the government take advantage of our higher tuition fees, when we gain the same benefits as Canadian students?

Even so, while Canadian citizens benefit from foreign exposure in a passive way, international students do so in a active way. We are paying more, but we are also experiencing more when we move to a new country. Despite this policy’s economic goals, it means facilitating visa processes for students who wish to gain these experiences first-hand by coming to Canada to study. While the government is considering its own goals, it’s helping students around the world to achieve theirs.

 

Francesca Morfini is a second-year student at St. Michael’s College studying international relations and history.