Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered his pre-election budget today, with barely a mention of international education.
Morneau pledged $147.9 million over five years (about $29.5 million per year) to support international education. However, that covers both outbound Canadian students and promotion of Canadian institutions to prospective international students. The budget did not specify how the funds would be divided, but it's well known that Canada lags in sending students to learn overseas.
As anyone who has taken Politics 101 knows, education is a provincial responsibility and the provinces are not interested in Ottawa telling them what to do. In the budget document, the Finance Department acknowledged this, stating that the funds would need to be administered in coordination with the provinces and the educational institutions themselves.
Even without much support or funding from the federal government, the international education sector is cruising along, with more than 495,000 students attending K-12, post-secondary institutions and private sector language programs. That's mostly thanks to the hard work and recruiting campaigns these sectors and individual institutions have undertaken.
Even with minimal help from Ottawa, the 2019 outlook for Canada is good. This has less to do with the federal government and more to do with the missteps of competitors:
- The United States: President Trump continues his tirade against immigration, which is having a dampening effect on the number of international students applying to study in that country. The next election is in 2020, although it's far from certain that Trump will be defeated.
- United Kingdom: The government announced this month that it wants to increase student numbers by 30 percent in the next decade. However, that may be pie in the sky if the turmoil over Brexit continues.
- New Zealand: Sadly, last week's tragic shooting at two mosques may make international students reluctant to study there. In addition, in its International Education Strategy last year, the government acknowledged quality is a problem in that country: "Some providers have not delivered a quality education to international students."
- Australia: A number of students are feeling unwelcome down under. A University of New South Wales poll of Australians found that 54 percent of respondents felt that the government should limit the number of international students.
In Canada, the federal government is primarily responsible for issuing visas for the international students who have already been admitted by educational institutions. In order to get a visa, each student is supposed to have sufficient financial resources for study in Canada. This may be one of the biggest international education challenges the federal government faces in the coming years.
As we reported last month, Ottawa may be dodging its responsibilities. For example, a number of Indian students attending Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia claim that they need part-time jobs to cover their expenses. Some have even visited food banks. This raises the question of whether Ottawa is vetting the financial background of all applicants.