Hefty fees from foreign students are bailing out Canadian universities -- and that's not good
There was a time, not so long ago, when the picture of Canadian campus life was pretty monochromatic: the faces were mostly white, the language was English or French, the nationality was Canadian.
That began to change in the 1990's. Students from all over the world began to come to Canadian universities. And we were happy to have them. Universities welcomed the diversity they brought. Provincial governments liked the extra revenue they delivered, and the federal government saw them as a potential source of new, highly-educated immigrants.
Today, there are more than 300,000 international students studying in Canada. About 200,000 of them are in universities. In 2012, the federal government announced it wanted to double the number of foreign students in Canada by 2022 - to nearly half a million. But the numbers have been growing so quickly in recent years that it looks like that target will be easily surpassed. International students now inject over $8 billion a year into the Canadian economy.
But what began as a "nice to have" twenty years ago has become an "absolutely must have". International students are now the key to survival for many Canadian universities, especially the smaller ones. And some fear the road to survival has set universities on a path to destruction.There are persistent questions about the integrity of the recruiting system, about English language proficiency, and about how the very presence of so many foreign students is shaping what Canadian universities deliver and what they don't.
It's already one of the most international of all Canadian campuses. And administrators want to make it more so. Therein lies a cautionary tale.
Ira's documentary is called "Foreign Exchange."
And a footnote: the New York Times reported this week that Canadian universities are already seeing a surge in interest from overseas students, after the U.S. election. Students who might have otherwise planned to apply to American universities, are concerned about what Mr. Trump's victory might mean for them. According to Ted Sargent, the University of Toronto's vice-president international, visits to their recruitment website from the U.S. are usually around 1,000 a day.
On November 9th, the day after the U.S. election, that spiked to 10,000