A $5-million investment from the province will support international students who want to study in B.C. and B.C. students who want to study abroad.
Naomi Yamamoto, Advanced Education Minister, announced the funding and the province’s new international education strategy Monday at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus.
The money is for scholarships and research internships to assist both domestic and out-of-country students with international education experiences.
The province’s goal is to increase international students in B.C. by 50 per cent in the next four years.
International students provide economic benefits – international students spent almost $2 billion on tuition, accommodation and other living expenses in B.C. in 2010 – and also social and cultural benefits, Yamamoto said.
“We’re creating connections, relationships with other countries,” she said. “Jobs now and in the future will require people to have some form of international experience.”
Attending a tropical ecology field school in Belize was the highlight of the university experience for VIU student Angeline de Bruyns, who credits the trip with both furthering her education goals of becoming a medical doctor and also giving her valuable life experiences.
“Extraordinary, remarkable, fascinating … those words don’t really sum it up,” she said. “We would see what we had learned in class right after learning about it.”
De Bruyns was able to go on the five-week trip because she received a scholarship through the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society, which received $2 million of the $5 million investment.
The remaining $3 million went to Mitacs, a national, non-profit research organization, to support B.C. and international students in graduate programs in B.C. and research internships for international students.
De Bruyns said studying abroad is expensive, so the money will provide more students with opportunities they otherwise might not have had.
Karim Alshehri, a hospitality management student from Saudi Arabia, said many people from his country choose to study in Canada and put money into local economies – he moved to Nanaimo with his wife and two children and they rent a house, shop at local stores and use a variety of local services.
While the family plans to eventually return to Saudi Arabia, Alshehri plans to work in Canada after graduating to gain Canadian experience.
Ralph Nilson, VIU president, said the institution brings more than 1,000 international students to Nanaimo each year and the students give local residents closer connections to other cultures than they could get by reading about them.
“The human contact and human connection is so important,” he said.
Ashwak Sirri, owner of the Grand Hotel, which has hired international students from more than 20 different countries and recently sponsored a Japanese student in her bid for a permanent residency visa, said the students provide an economic stimulus in many facets of the local economy, not to mention a unique experience for her domestic staff.
International Education by the Numbers
u $1.8 billion — the amount international students in B.C. spent on tuition, accommodation and other living expenses, creating almost 22,000 jobs and generating $66 million in government revenue
u 1,800 — estimated number of jobs B.C. gains for every 10 per cent increase in the number of international students coming to the province
u four — percentage of all international students worldwide who choose to come to Canada, 28 per cent of whom choose B.C.
u 28,000 — approximate number of international students attending public post-secondary institutions in B.C.
Source: provincial government statistics