|University of British Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The Canadian government is hoping to corner the market on foreign students by making a significant investment into Canada's education brand.
The recently tabled federal budget directs $10 million over the next two years to the effort - a large increase from the funding it set aside for marketing education from 2007 to 2012, when it budgeted $1 million each year.
Efforts will focus on strengthening the "Imagine Education au/in Canada" brand, a program that aims to promote the high quality of a Canadian education to international students.
Foreign Affairs spokesman John Babcock said the extra funding is a "very positive signal," and that the federal government will continue cooperating with the provinces to strengthen the international education strategy.
Canada is already a top destination for foreign students. According to the budget, some 239,000 students in 2010 contributed $8 billion to the economy, making them a rich vein for colleges and universities to tap.
The University of British Columbia, for instance, has almost 4,000 students from 120 different countries. Foreign students' tuition is, on average, five times higher than what Canadian students pay.
"It's a lot more than about economics," said UBC president Stephen Toope. "They really bring a richness to the educational experience that all Canadian students benefit from."
Jennifer Humphries, vice-president of membership, public policy and communications for the Canadian Bureau for International Education, said the Canadian education strategy to attract these students has several facets.
"The brand is all the things Canada does," said Humphries, adding that immigration regulations, tourism campaigns, the schools themselves and even the Vancouver Winter Olympics are all a part of the marketing effort.
"I still think, and the government seems to agree with us, there needs to be more investment and more work on establishing a brand, because we aren't where we need to be," she said.
The budget also included $13 million for Mitacs Globalink, a Vancouver-based program that matches international research students with schools.
"We're unique in being able to make sure that students are being put into labs that will be really interesting to them," said Arvind Gupta, CEO of Mitacs Globalink. "They know that when they come to us that we will have a good project for them."
The Imagine Education campaign has only been around a short time, so it remains to be seen how it affects recruitment.
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