My Thoughts on the Throne Speech (Part Two)

As we know, in February’s Throne Speech Dalton McGuinty outlined a vision for Ontario’s postsecondary education system that hinged upon the formation of 20,000 additional spaces in the college’s provinces and universities, the creation of an online institute of postsecondary learning, and the enrollment of up to 18,500 additional international students.  He defended the last of these, stating:

“Why don’t we get serious about competing for international students?  We could use the funds this generates to help expand our schools for our kids and create jobs.”

There is, of course, validity to the argument: UNESCO Institute of Statistics reports that in 1997 over 2.8 million students worldwide studied outside of their home country — an increase of 41% since 1999.

In other words, there’s certainly a large — one might say growing — pool of potential students to attract, and Ontario might very well be able to attract a larger percentage of that pool.

Worth remembering, though, is that Ontario’s not the only educational system trying to attract an increasing number of those prospective students.

The Institute for International Education reports the following (excerpted) details on countries whose governments are attempting to actively promote their postsecondary systems:

These are only a few examples of governments that have launched coordinated efforts to promote international education. Other countries are starting to set recruitment targets as well: Malaysia seeks to attract 100,000 international students by 2010 (up from 45,000 in 2005); Jordan announced plans to increase the number of international students to 100,000 by 2020; Singapore set a target of attracting 150,000 foreign students by 2015; China seeks to host 300,000 by 2020; and Japan has reportedly set the ambitious goal of hosting one million foreign students by 2025 (up from the current 120,000).

Several of the leading host countries, along with others in Asia and Europe, have allocated tens of millions of dollars to launch sophisticated marketing strategies over the past few years. The U.K.’s £5 million Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education was one of the earliest, launched in 1998, and was supplemented with the Education UK Brand in 2000, a focus point to market British institutions abroad that is available to any UK campus. Building on the success of these early initiatives, the UK recently announced a new £7 million Prime Minister’s Initiative to secure the UK’s position as a leader in international education. Other recent initiatives include the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme (2004), the UK-China Higher Education Program (2005), and the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (2006). These combined efforts helped attract more than 120,000 additional international students to the UK in the past 6 years.

The French Government created a special agency, EduFrance, which has taken the lead in developing marketing materials and outreach campaigns in English, to reach beyond France’s traditional international student base in francophone Africa and the Middle East. In March 2007, EduFrance was merged with two other organizations to create CampusFrance, a new national agency with 98 offices abroad charged with the promotion of French higher education

In 1998, the Singapore government announced that it would seek to attract 10 universities to Singapore in ten years. This goal was met and exceeded. A new agency, Education Singapore, was created and is charged with promoting and marketing Singapore abroad. Other places follow a similar approach: Dubai Knowledge Village and Qatar Education City are just two examples of targeted strategies to create regional education hubs and attract world-class institutions.

In August 2007, the New Zealand government announced a new International Education Agenda, an integrated, long-term, whole-of-government strategy, based on a multi-million dollar package of new initiatives over the next several years.

A quick google search of the words “increase the number of international students” indicates that the following countries or educational systems are also making a concerted effort to do the same:

UBC

Kentucky

Ireland

Poland

Taiwan

The Netherlands

So it looks like Ontario will have quite a bit of competition, including from countries (like Australia) or regions (like California or British Columbia) that may be geographically closer to the home countries of students they’re trying to attract.  At the same time, newly-formed universities (public or private) in the students’ home coutries could increasingly put downward pressure on the number of international students.

So perhaps the question is — how much money is Ontario willing to put up in order to compete against, say, the UK’s 7-million-pound campaign?    Remembering that Ontario is trying to attract an additional 18,500 students.  How much do they estimate that would require in promotional expenses, keeping in mind that such money would be related to the education budget, without a dollar of it making its way into the classroom, and remembering that each international student may only result in a couple of thousand dollars of profit (after the costs of educating the student are deducted) for the institution in question.

Somebody remind me again how this is going to revolutionize our postsecondary education system and therefore save our province’s economy?

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