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Colleges and universities say government must address gaps in its international student strategy

Lack of federal resources fails international student strategy


The Globe and Mail


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Colleges and universities say the government must address the gaps in its international student strategy.

“The question of visa processing times is a critical one in terms of attracting top students. If our competitors are able to turn around visas faster, all the marketing efforts, all the recruitment efforts, all the offers of scholarships fail,” said Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada.

The report also recommends clarifying what role international students play in Canada’s overall immigration strategy. The goal of doubling student numbers was set by a 2012 panel as a way to fill labour-market shortages and increase global economic links. But those economic needs can’t be met without government co-ordination, said the panel’s chair.

“Our biggest challenge on this file is a structural one: It’s not having a department in Ottawa that champions education. As a result, there is nobody from my point of view that has responsibility for it, and the departments that are involved, it’s not a major issue for them,” said Amit Chakma, president of the University of Western Ontario, who led the 2012 panel.

Much of how international student policy is decided depends on winning over key politicians, he added. “Jim Flaherty championed the panel. That was more of an accident than anything else, he took a personal interest in it. And that gave us momentum in Ottawa. With his [death], we lost that.”

Released at the end of April, the CIC report comes only months after the government introduced its new Express Entry immigration system. Express Entry ranks potential immigrants based on their age, education and skills, and has been promoted by the government as a way to expedite the entry of highly qualified immigrants.

Every few weeks, those with top scores receive an invitation to apply for permanent status. But some international students have said they are concerned they lack the number of points that have led to invitations.

Before the introduction of Express Entry, students who had graduated from Canadian postsecondary institutions and had Canadian work experience were almost certain to be able to stay in Canada.


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