One way to attract the best foreign students to Canada is for Ottawa to provide co-funding — to be matched by institutions, provinces or private donors — for 8,000 new scholarships for top international undergraduates to study in Canada, a report recommended.
The government-commissioned report on Canada's international education strategy, released Tuesday in Halifax, called boosting the number of full-time international students from about 239,000 last year to more than 450,000 by 2022 a "realistic goal."
"Canada's education systems have the capacity to absorb new international students without displacing domestic students," the panel wrote in the report.
Numerous studies warn that with an aging workforce, Canada will suffer a "severe" shortage of skilled labour in the next decade, the report noted.
"International recruitment strategies targeting both the quantity and quality of talent are needed to address Canada's future shortfalls in the human capital necessary for building a world-class knowledge economy," the report said.
Promoting education in Canada abroad should be focused on markets deemed to have the greatest growth potential, the report said, including China, India, Brazil, Vietnam, Mexico and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Even if students don't stay in Canada after their studies, they can foster commercial and political relations between Canada and their home country, wrote the panel led by Western University president Amit Chakma.
"With the alumni networks established through those international students who return to their home countries, Canada gains advocates who can assist in opening doors to foreign partners," the report said.
Ottawa should also consider partly funding a program to send up to 50,000 Canadian students abroad for study and cultural exchanges, the report said.
"We also see a role for the private sector to encourage Canadian students to become global citizens," the panel wrote in the report.
"Canadian students are powerful ambassadors that can market opportunities to study in Canada to their fellow students abroad."
Other recommendations from the report include:
— creating a Council on International Education and Research to provide policy advice to the ministers of International Trade, Finance, Citizenship and Immigration, and Industry.
— developing a sophisticated and comprehensive e-communication system that will serve as a national portal for international students interested in education in Canada.
— improving education visa processing to provide consistent and timely processing of high-quality candidates.
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