HALIFAX – Concerns about Canada’s global reputation are top of the mind for most, if not all, international education professionals these days. Delivering a top-quality educational experience to international students is imperative to Canada’s global standing as a preferred study destination.
Collectively, we know changes are required to the International Student Program, as we want Canada to maintain and even enhance its reputation for supporting the well-being of all international students. We assert that rushing to apply “caps” on international students in all regions is not the best-fit solution for the long-term sustainability of our institutions, regions, provinces and communities. If implemented, a cap like this could hinder the efforts to attract and retain international talent in Nova Scotia, which is crucial for the government’s goal of doubling the province’s population by 2060.
EduNova and our membership have been working to attract talented international students to this region via our eleven excellent post-secondary institutions and language sector partners. These institutions graduate international talent, who are attracted, in many cases, to the opportunities offered through the Atlantic Immigration Program and other provincial immigration programs, which address the Atlantic region’s specific labour needs.
In Nova Scotia, we are aligning our efforts to support the region’s immigration programs by attracting and retaining top international talent. EduNova’s Study and Stay – Nova Scotia Program has matched local labour needs with international students’ skills for the past eight years. The program provides tailored mentorship, career development and networking opportunities to final-year international university and college students across the province each year. Over the past eight years, on average, eighty-six percent of graduates work in their chosen field of study in the province within one-year post-graduation. The Study and Stay Program has expanded to each of the three other Atlantic provinces, which now operate independently of EduNova with provincial and federal funding.
This policy response has been positioned to address housing shortages, a challenge in Nova Scotia and nationwide. The lack of available and affordable housing is a “broad” crisis for all Canadians. What we are seeing is the result of a wide-ranging systematic and policy failure that has been in the making for decades but does not fall at the feet of international students. International students are often unable to access housing in Canada as they usually do not have an established in-country credit rating, employment, or a recommendation from a landlord when they arrive to secure off-campus housing. As vulnerable people in our communities, international students often fall prey to scams perpetrated by bad actors in this space. Post-secondary institutions are well positioned to work with government to help accelerate development and deliver the housing Canada needs, in addition to the thousands of new units they are already building in communities across the country.
Collectively, we recognize the need for changes in Canada’s international education strategy, the broader immigration system and the housing stock. Canada’s International Education Strategy (IES) needs, and is currently undergoing a re-think. Global Affairs Canada has been engaging in consultations with our sector since last year, with plans to release the new International Education Strategy in early 2024.
We want to emphasize that this abrupt, sweeping policy change could significantly negatively affect our universities, colleges and the language sector while attempting to address the serious root issues in the overall system. While we all support the idea of an ethical and sustainable approach to welcoming international students to Canada, we must consider the unintended consequences of this massive policy shift, which may disproportionately impact some institutions, particularly those publicly funded, without a clear understanding of the full implications that could result.
EduNova and its member institutions are eager to collaborate with various levels of government in order to find the optimal solution for Nova Scotia. Our goal is to ensure the well-being of Nova Scotia, its communities, institutions, domestic and international students. It is critical that we engage in constructive discussions to develop both short-term and long-term strategies. These strategies should help address the challenges without compromising one Canadian policy priority while tackling another.
President + CEO
EduNova Cooperative Ltd.