Canada is finally moving toward a smart, two-step immigration policy -- like Australia and others have --- that will recruit talent through a targeting policy of foreign student education.
Australia's success has been widely disseminated and last week (August 14) a blue-ribbon federal task force in Canada released a report that would emulate its policy. The number of foreign students allowed entry into Canadian institutions should nearly double to 450,000 in a decade and those who graduate from Canadian institutions should be eligible to remain, rather than having to return home and wait years to get in.
Most foreign students in Canada get their degrees and never come back. Most Australians apply to remain and the majority stay.
The next step will be consultations across the country and then the new policy will likely become part of the reforms being developed by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
Australia currently has 256,087 international students, mostly post-secondary, slightly ahead of Canada's 239,130. The Canadian task force recommends that this be increased to 450,000 in a decade without taking places from Canadians.
Canadian universities and other educational institutions have catered to this market but Australia has outclassed Canada's efforts by pooling their marketing efforts rather than marketing individually.
Ottawa should emulate the studyinaustralia.gov.au website, where anyone can research immediately educational opportunities, by courses, majors, institutions, regions, cities. Its "wizard" feature allows users to deep-dive into concrete information about housing, scholarships, fees, tuition and living expenses.
In Canada, the studyincanada.com website offers incomplete information. A cursory review of university websites found that fees and other information were unavailable.
Australia charges more than Canadian institutions because along with graduation comes immigration eligibility, providing criteria are met. Another benefit of the Australian method is that outcomes for immigrants are far superior than immigrant outcomes in Canada, where unemployment among so-called university-educated immigrants is four times' higher than for Canadians with university degrees.
Canada needs this tool to attract skilled and educated workers who will immediately be successful in the country because they have assimilated and have bona fide credentials.
And Canada can charge more too:
-- The University of Melbourne charges bachelor of commerce international students $32,700 annually compared with $26,900 at the University of Toronto, $25,400 University of Alberta and $25,300 for UBC.
-- Melbourne charges international students studying engineering $33,000 a year compared with $30,400 at U of T and $23,300 at U of Alberta.
-- Medical school for international students in Australia is more than $55,000 a year and $36,500 at University of Toronto, according to its website.
Worse yet, there are inadequate places for Canadians at Canadian medical schools and the result is that hundreds of Canadians go to Australian medical schools, and virtually all stay, according to University of Melbourne Professor and immigration specialist Lesleyanne Hawthorne.
(This points out another needed immigration reform. As Canadians go abroad to become doctors because foreigners have taken their places, foreigners who study here cannot stay to practice medicine because they must go home and re-apply. No credentials, Australian or even American, are recognized by Canada's protectionist medical profession.)
"Canadians who graduate from Australian medical schools are immediately licensed and get residencies. We are keeping 92% of our Canadian medical students. Now dental students from Canada are coming to Australia in large numbers for the same reasons," said Professor Hawthorne at a recent conference into immigration at the University of Calgary.
By offering eligibility with an education, universities here can up their fees substantially, and provide more spaces for Canadians.
The Australian system also picks and chooses among international students, selecting those with credentials that are in demand and rejecting those who have not adjusted to the culture or who have not behaved properly. Since 1999, some 630,000 foreign students have been allowed to immigrate in Australia and have achieved superior outcomes compared with those immigrants who have come from offshore having never lived or studied there.
"By 2006, at a time of sustained economic boom, labor market participation rates were strong in Australia for former international students. Ninety-five percent were employed, compared with 93 percent of those recruited offshore -- a far more positive level of engagement than 1999-2000 arrivals (62 percent)," said an article about the Australian immigration experience published a few years ago in Canada's Policy Options.
However, one caution is that if Canada hurtles headlong into doubling foreign student populations governments must be wary of the proliferation of private-school rackets offering diplomas as a means of gaining entry for unacceptable, unqualified persons.
"Serious abuses in Australia were uncovered, at a time when vocational private-sector quality assurance mechanisms were poorly developed," said the report. "By May 2009, international student enrolments in vocational education and training were growing by 50 percent per year, compared with just 1 percent in the tertiary sector. There was a growing concern that `widespread rackets among private trade colleges were...undermin[ing] Australia's education, immigration and employment systems.'"
But such hazards can be averted by putting safeguards in place to monitor providers of "education" to foreigners. If not, a proliferation of schools will result handing out worthless diplomas and credentials as backdoor entries into Canada.
For an audition to become an immigrant, foreigners will have to pay as much for a Canadian education as they do for an Australian one. And universities and colleges will have to find and educate appropriate people to learn skills that are needed to help make the Canadian economy grow.