All Posts Tagged With: "International Students"
Why can we find money for execs but not foreign students?
International students at the University of Alberta are facing a possible five per cent tuition increase next year, equating to $900 to $1,600 per year, depending on the program. They already pay several times as much tuition as domestic students to make up for lack of taxpayer funding. Domestic tuition, meanwhile, is set to rise only one per cent. While many international students have cried out in protest, some domestic students support higher increases for non-Albertans.
I, however, have to side with my international colleagues that this tuition increase is unfair. I can’t imagine the sudden stress they’re under. Why is it that Alberta universities can find millions of dollars for things like $8.1-million executive office upgrades and 3.65% pay raises but can’t keep tuition down for these vulnerable students?
My empathy comes from the experiences I’ve had as a student on a diverse campus. For the past year, I’ve been a writing tutor working exclusively with students who are relatively new to Canada. I meet with an entire class of English as a Second Language students every week and so I know them not only on an academic level, but a personal level. Some say I’m their first Canadian friend.
Recent survey of international students might surprise you
In 1916, Bill Boeing went to MIT to hire his first chief engineer. He picked Wong Tsoo, a Chinese guy who had emigrated to England at the age of 16 for undergrad before crossing the Atlantic for graduate school. Wong quickly got to work on Boeing’s first commercially successful plane, the C-Model. Imagine how different the airline industry might have been had another country’s university—Canada’s perhaps—enticed Wong. Both Canada and the U.S. had racist anti-Chinese policies at the time, such as the Head Tax, but if Canada had been less racist than America, might the Wongs of the era have chosen McGill?
We’ve come a long way since then. From 2001 to 2008, the number of international students in Canada increased at a rate of 4.3% per year; between 2008 to 2012 the annual increase was, astonishingly, 12.3%. There were 265,377 in 2012 (74% of them in post-secondary schools). We now get five per cent of all international students worldwide, making Canada the seventh most popular destination after the US, UK, China, France, Germany and Australia, according to Project Atlas.
Concern grows about English proficiency on campus
At 23, Dalhousie University student Ishika Sharma speaks with such self-assurance and optimism, it’s hard to imagine how lost she felt in September 2012, when she arrived in Halifax from New Delhi. She recalls those early weeks in the YMCA’s international-student residence as a bleak period of culture shock and loneliness. “Oh my god, the international student housing was a weepfest for the first two months,” she says. Gradually, the closed doors of her neighbours would open, if only to share late-night hot chocolate and a bit of sympathy.
Sharma was more fortunate than most. While she grew up speaking Hindi and Punjabi, she arrived with a solid command of English, the language she used in most of the undergraduate courses in physiotherapy she studied in India. “Many of the students who joined the university with me were not well-versed in English,” she says. “They had trouble getting along with people in English. They had trouble asking for help, and that was a big reason why they did not socialize enough.”
1 in 3 agree international students hindered learning
Every once in a while, a student newspaper contributor will float the idea that in a time when universities are short on resources (seats in the library, face-time with profs, one-ply toilet paper) we ought to consider cutting or capping international student enrollment. A student at UBC Okanagan recently waded into this argument.
“With the constant increase of international students in order to cover shortfalls, are we displacing seats of domestic students? Any administrator you talk to will argue that this measure does not displace seats, but what about the infrastructure of UBC? Won’t we eventually run out of space in the library?”
History students might recognize the dangers of this discussion. When resources get tight, a minority group is an easy scapegoat. Until now, we didn’t know how domestic students view their international peers, an increasingly important question as international enrollment doubled from six per cent of the total in 1992 to 12 per cent of the total in 2010. A new study by Higher Education Strategy Associates, who surveyed 1,398 domestic students, shows positive and negative feelings.
Nigerian students shouldn’t be sent back
Victoria Ordu and Ihouma Amadi, two students from Nigeria, have been seeking sanctuary in Regina churches since June 19th, 2012 to avoid deportation for violating their student visas.
Their situation shows how the federal government sees international students in Canada: as injections of money into the economy rather than as human beings worthy of respect.
The two came to study at the University of Regina in 2009 on full scholarships paid for by Nigeria. Ordu, a theatre arts major, and Amadi, an international studies major, were working legally on campus part-time until their problems began in 2011, when they took part-time work at Wal-Mart—Ordu with an agency doing demonstrations in the store, Amadi with the store itself. They were unaware their social insurance numbers allowed them to work only on campus. After two weeks at Wal-Mart, Ordu learned she was not allowed to work off campus and quit. Amadi says she found out when she was led out of the store in handcuffs.
Universities worried about damage to Canada’s reputation
The unprecedented job action Monday by Canada’s striking diplomats sparked recriminations in the tourism sector as an estimated 150 visa officers walked off the job in 15 foreign missions.
The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers escalated the rotating job action after an attempt to seek binding arbitration with the federal government broke down last week.
Canada’s tourism association blamed the diplomats for walking away from binding arbitration.
“We are disappointed the union has walked away from the mediation process, just as we were profoundly disappointed that they purposefully chose this time of year for their action — when we have the highest volumes of both visitor and student visas,” David Goldstein, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said in an emailed statement.
Why some on campus are calling for more language help
Professors at the University of Regina, which has doubled its international student population from 730 in 2009 to 1,448 in 2013, say students are being admitted without good enough English.
English professor Susan Johnston told CBC that some don’t have the listening skills to understand what’s going on in classes and they also appear to be crafting papers in one language and converting them to English, “through some kind of Google Translator or BabelFish program.”
The discussion isn’t limited to Saskatchewan. The international student population grew by 60 per cent nationwide between 2004 and 2012.
While universities are happy to have the extra tuition, funding and diversity that foreign students bring, schools face pressure to make sure these new recruits can read, write and speak well enough to succeed.
Students Nova Scotia, an advocacy group, recently studied international students. After consulting government, professors and students (both foreign and domestic) they concluded that, “language fluency is possibly the most important academic challenge affecting international students.”
British Columbia diploma offered at 41 off-shore schools
It’s a muggy afternoon in June and high school students wearing T-shirts stamped with the image of Terry Fox stride past towering high-rises and scooters with honking horns in this small Chinese city that’s been coated in haze from the local fiberglass factory for several days.
For most, it’s their first time making the fundraising trek that’s annual tradition half-a-world away in a country where they yearn to attend university.
Teachers at Grand Canadian Academy, a private school certified to award British Columbia diplomas, hope the early Terry Fox run will ease cultural integration for students who have perhaps only visited Canada once before.
Yet the teenagers don’t hesitate to draw contrast between how the hero from their prospective new country might have fared in their rapidly-developing homeland.
#IdleNoMore, dumping Instagram & fraternity horrors
1. You’ve seen the #IdleNoMore hashtag all over Twitter, but do you know what it’s all about? Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, offers his take in The Huffington Post. “It is a loosely knit political movement encompassing rallies drawing thousands of people across dozens of cities, road blocks, a shoving match on Parliament hill between Chiefs and mounties and one high profile hunger strike,” he writes. The hunger striker is Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat in northern Ontario. Kinew explains where the meme started and says the movement is about engaging youth, finding meaning, rights, the environment and democracy. His summary is worth reading. Also worth reading is The Charlatan‘s coverage of Carleton University’s panel discussion on the Indian Act with the Assembly of First Nations.
2. A lot of Canadians are deleting their Instagram accounts. The addictive photo-sharing service has changed its terms of service to allow it to sell users photos and data. “…you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,” reads the new terms. The Guardian says it will give a boost to Yahoo-owned Flickr, which just launched a mobile app that doesn’t sell your photos.
George Brown College guilty of negligent misrepresentation
A group of international business students who came from as far away as China to complete a program at a Toronto college has won a lawsuit over a misleading course description.
The students spent thousands of dollars in tuition only to find that George Brown College couldn’t confer the industry designations it mentioned in the course calendar.
The graduate students launched a class-action lawsuit against George Brown and an Ontario Superior Court judge agreed that the course description was negligent misrepresentation.
The amount the college must pay will be determined at a later hearing.
The description said the program “provides students with the opportunity to complete” industry certifications, but the program only prepared students to pursue the designations later if they wanted — at more cost to them.
Judge Edward Belobaba wrote in his decision that George Brown is a highly regarded college and the ruling shouldn’t change that, but in this case it was “careless and made a mistake.”
About 239,000 full-time international students attended Canadian colleges and universities last year.
Supreme Court, Halloween costumes, & UBC “dimes”
1. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Conservative MP Ted Opitz legitimately won his seat in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre in the 2011 federal election, but the court was split 4 to 3. Opitz appealed an Ontario Superior Court ruling that set aside his victory over Liberal incumbent Borys Wrzesnewskyj because of procedural irregularities with 79 ballots. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling, deciding that 59 of those votes should count, reports The Canadian Press. The lesson: every vote matters.
2. A Twitter account dedicated to highlighting “dimes” and referencing “sluts” at UBC Vancouver has been removed. University officials told The Province newspaper that several varsity athletes, including hockey players, were behind the @UBCDimeWatch handle. “Dime” is a slang term for a woman whose appearance might be called a “perfect 10.” Photos were apparently posted without women’s permission. That’s a bit creepy.
3. The UK Border Agency’s decision to revoke London Metropolitan University’s license to sponsor overseas students strengthened the image of UK higher education, says Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. He told Times Higher Education that Canada intends “to go the same direction,” noting what he calls, “many sub-par institutions that are not providing quality programmes, and which are mostly facilitating various forms of legal migration.”
The joys (and frustrations) of teaching international students
For most of my career as a professor I have taught literature courses, and as such, have had relatively little contact with international students. But recently, I have begun teaching more a basic composition designed for students in all majors, and, since international students tend to take (at least where I teach) business and science, I’ve met a lot more such students. And so I have begun to experience the many joys and occasional frustrations inherent in that particular mode of instruction. Like all teaching, it’s been a learning experience.
One of the joys has been getting insights into other languages. For instance, the large number of Saudi Arabian students at Cape Breton University has led me to start learning a bit about Arabic. This in turn has allowed me to make at least a few comments about the differences between Arabic and English in class, which, in turn, encourages those same Saudi students to engage more fully with the course material.
Certain provinces are winning this lucrative competition
International students want Canadian degrees. They’re cheaper than U.S. degrees and more respected than Australia’s. Canada, meanwhile, loves international students. They pay full-freight tuition, spend tonnes of money while studying, and then make excellent candidates for immigration.
It’s no surprise, then, that foreign student permits grew 26.5 per cent between 2007 and 2011.
But higher education is a provincial realm and some provinces are more aggressively recruiting. Nova Scotia decided in 2009 that foreign students are a solution to the province’s shrinking tax base. British Columbia’s premier said that she’s wants 50 per cent more over the next four years.
Montreal only Canadian city in Top 10 Best Student Cities
Montreal is the only Canadian city to crack the Top 10 list in a new ranking of the best cities above 250,000 for students—a list that will be considered by jet-setting scholars everywhere.
Montreal’s tenth place in the QS World Best Student Cities rankings was earned through high scores in all five of the criteria areas considered.
First, its institutions are high quality: U de Montreal and McGill U are in the Top 200 worldwide; Concordia U is in the Top 600.
Next, Montreal’s quality of living is high when measured by the Mercer Quality of Living Index.
It’s reasonably affordable too, when measured by international student tuition ($13,400), the Mercer Cost of Living Index and The Economist magazine’s Big Mac Index.
Its “mix of students” is also high—Montreal has a high proportion of students, both domestic and international. Foreign students make up 21 per cent of the mix, compared to 10 per cent in Toronto.
And finally, both domestic and international employers rate Montreal’s university graduates highly.
Tuition is a deal. School spirit is an experience.
For Manitoban students, international study doesn’t require a transoceanic flight.
Manitoba has a 20-year-old reciprocity agreement with the State of Minnesota and at least 21 Canadians are currently studying at campuses of the highly-regarded University of Minnesota.
Up to 1,000 a year will be accepted
Canada is making it easier for international Ph.D. students—who make up one-quarter of the total—to stay permanantly, Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear announced today on behalf of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Starting Nov. 5, international Ph.D. students can apply to be accepted as federal skilled workers, so long as they have at at least two years of study toward the doctoral degrees under their belt or have graduated in the past 12 months, and are in good academic standing.
Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, said the announcement will give Canada a “competitive edge” in attracting international students.
Taxpayer watchdog opposed
Starting next April, foreign students attending high schools or post-secondary schools in Manitoba will get free health care coverage for themselves and their dependents, reports the Winnipeg Sun. That will save them roughly $400 each annually on private health insurance.
But the Canadian Taxpayer Federation’s Manitoba director says it’s “madness” for the province to pick up the tab, citing a growing provincial debt.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health defended the decision, saying that providing free health care to the province’s 3,200 international students and their families will give Manitoba a competitive advantage in recruiting more students, who may eventually settle in the province. The official did not provide an estimate of how much the program will cost, but suggested it will be minimal because most students are young and healthy.
But how long can it last?
Norway is one of the last remaining countries where foreign students can attend university without paying a cent of tuition money. But with free school increasingly rare, how long can it last?
Shocking as it may seem to many Canadians, Norweigians don’t charge any tuition to anyone—which was, until recently, normal in Scandinavia. Now, Denmark, Finland and Sweden all charge tuition fees, leaving Norway the only free option.
It should be unsurprising then to learn that foreigners are choosing Norway more often than ever. When non-European Union students were charged tuition fees for the first time this year in Sweden (up to $21,000 each), applications dropped 85 per cent. Meanwhile, Noway’s University of Oslo experienced a 60 per cent rise in popularity. Since 2008, the number of foreign students in Norway is up 27 per cent overall.
Public schools compete for high-paying international students
Last year, Patricia Gartland, who works for a suburban Vancouver school district, brought in $16 million selling 1,700 B.C. classroom spots to foreign students, largely from China and South Korea. Gartland, who started her job as director of international education with the Coquitlam School District in suburban Vancouver over 10 years ago, has made the program in Vancouver one of the most extensive in Canada and the envy of the scores of districts across the country looking to cash in on the growing market for international students.
With international students paying $10,000 to $14,000 to attend Canadian schools, public school administrators across the country are setting up for-profit international student programs to compete for their dollars. One 2009 study estimated some 35,000 foreign students in the K-12 system contribute almost $700 million annually to the Canadian economy—a win-win for students, who get an invaluable leg-up when applying to North American post-secondary schools, as well as district administrators, who make up to 50 per cent profit on the tuition.
International student programs aren’t new to Canada, but at the K-12 level they’re rarely talked about, although most provinces have had programs for at least a decade. No province has been more successful at bringing in international students than B.C., with some 9,000. Capitalizing on the demand for a Western diploma and an English-language education, B.C. schools compete with Britain, the U.S. and Australia to recruit students overseas. School districts send staff abroad to meet foreign school officials and to attend trade shows. Domestically, the districts liaise with the Lower Mainland’s tight-knit Chinese and Korean communities, looking for overseas relatives. Once in Canada, the students live with extended family or billets. The students are offered supplementary language classes in tandem with regular studies, though eventually most opt for the standard curriculum.
B.C. has offered an international student program since the ’80s, but recruitment intensified after 2001, according to the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, when the government made cuts to the education system. “School boards were short $275 million,” says BCTF president Susan Lambert. New legislation, she says, “encouraged them to find alternative sources of funding.”
In 2002, Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government passed the School Amendment Act; the bill, seen by some academic experts as a move to embrace a marketized version of public education, cast school districts as business corporations, they say, and parents and students as consumers. By 2007-08, international student enrolment in B.C. peaked at 9,500 students, with an associated revenue of $129 million. But critics say that what’s emerging is a two-tier public education system that punishes the districts that need the most help.
Larry Kuehn, research director at BCTF, reports international student programs exacerbate existing inequalities in the public system by making the richest districts—those that can afford to invest in overseas recruitment—richer, and leaving poorer districts in the dust. Ultimately, says Kuehn, the programs are outside equalization factors in the provincial funding system built to circumvent such wealth disparity. Take Coquitlam, Gartland’s school board, where international student money has kept enrolment high and schools open, and afforded new development opportunities for staff and “very robust” student services, including a Confucius classroom and the first bilingual Mandarin kindergarten class in the province. “I’m wondering at the irony of an education system that says if you’re a for-profit school we’re not going to give you any funding at all but as a public school we’re going to allow you to sell to foreigners,” says Peter Cowley, education policy researcher at the Fraser Institute. “We have seen school districts in B.C. establishing for-profit companies.”
The B.C. Ministry of Education, however, rejects the notion that district inequality is an issue. “Each district has the choice of whether to offer such programs,” wrote B.C. Education Minister George Abbott in an email to Maclean’s. “Our school districts have both the autonomy and the responsibility for international student programs.”
So the districts that can recruit international students hope to emulate Coquitlam or West Vancouver, where foreign students bring in the equivalent of 16.4 per cent of its operating budget. It may not be the traditional portrait of public education, but it could be the future. In Ontario, for example, the number of international secondary students increased by six per cent between 2007-08 and 2009-10.
Back in Coquitlam, Gartland is developing student markets outside of Asia. But for now, she’s sanguine. :Suddenly everyone understands all the great benefits of this,” says Gartland. “Our mayor of Coquitlam says our program is bigger than the casino.”
University plans to give $3 million in tuition wavers to international students
Judith Woodsworth wasn’t the only topic of discussion at a Concordia Senate meeting a couple weeks back.
The university’s highest governing body also discussed new rules governing thesis secrecy. The new rules state that in some cases “all participants to a thesis defence” will be required to “sign an undertaking of confidentiality.”
The new rules will also require professors to inform students if they have “contractual obligations” with companies which “require that research results are not publicly disclosed.”
The rules were established by Concordia’s council of the school of graduate studies in October. The university’s 2010-2011 graduate calendar contains no references to confidentiality when it comes to theses or research. Theses are generally public documents.
While senate has no say on the new rules, they were still the subject of debate. Several senators questioned whether a public university should be getting so cozy with corporations.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, [corporations] are not doing us any favours. They are gaining access to cheap labour and the minds of the next generation,” said film studies professor David Douglas.
But provost David Graham maintained that students do benefit from the experience and connections gained from working on corporate projects.
Mourad Debbabi of the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering also pointed out that there were situations when researchers might have access to information that they cannot legally divulge.
Student senators also questioned whether secrecy is becoming too prevalent when it comes to theses and research.
That’s really the thing here, these rule changes are just acknowledging what’s already going on. While it’s probably better to have some rules rather than no rules, as was the case at Concordia, the new changes are pretty vague. Other schools, like Waterloo, have highly specific rules on when and how a thesis can be defended confidentially.
Concordia is also planning to give out $3 million in tuition wavers to international PhD and MFA students over the next three years.
“Most other Quebec universities currently offer tuition waivers to international students at the PhD level and so clearly we have been in an uncompetitive situation or a less than ideally competitive situation in the past,” Graham Carr, dean of graduate studies, told senate. “This is a very significant step forward, I think, in addressing that.”
The university says the wavers will benefit 35 students each year.