In recent decades Canada’s immigration system has demonstrated a preference for certain types of immigrants - highly skilled, educated, and economic newcomers. With this economic strategy, international students are an ideal fit for Canada’s economic strategy. But it is important to remember these immigrants are not just economic data points. They are real human beings with real needs. Unfortunately, as the Globe and Mail (2021) wrote, “International students’ psychological and physical well-being is being neglected at the expense of capital gain.” There is a desperate need for research to be performed in Canada to understand the needs of the over 600,000 international students arriving in Canada each year.
The Canadian government, along with universities/colleges, are well aware of the demographic and economic benefits offered by immigration. This realized potential is demonstrated by Canada’s tripling of international student enrollment in the past decade (Stats Canada 2021). The increased enrollment of international students at Canadian post-secondary institutions have been facilitated by new international student immigration streams and government policies. Subsequently, Canada has become a leader among developed countries in the enrollment of international students.
Canada’s future depends on immigration and the many opportunities newcomers offer. From helping the economy by starting new businesses, to benefiting the country through the diversification of ideas and innovation, immigration has been and will continue to be crucial to the economic well-being of Canada.
International students are attractive to Canada’s economy for two main reasons. First, they spend money in Canada through hefty tuition fees and general living expenses. Second, governments are not obligated to provide international students with the same level of supports provided to traditional immigrants. International students receive supports (social networking, language, and business skills) when they arrive in Canada through their host university, which help international students adjust to life in Canada, both during their studies at the institution and post-graduation. While Canada continues to increase the number of international students entering the country, little is known about these individuals’ experiences. This intricate topic has been further complicated by the economic impacts of COVID-19. While on-campuses activities largely shutdown over the past two years, the intake of international students continued, and as higher education institutions look to recoup some of the economic tolls inflicted by the pandemic their numbers are set to increase. The continued increase of international student numbers demonstrates the need to understand if the needs of this specific population are being met.
University and college supports are lifelines to international students, as they are not “permanent residents” meaning they do not have access to all the federal and provincial government supports available to other immigrants. As such, international students become very much dependent on the supports and resources their host university offers in Canada. While my study is interested in business creation supports, I am also driven to understand if universities’ supports are meeting the everyday needs of international students and their families. My research is also interested in understanding how university supports and government policy changes from province to province. Therefore, my study compares the Victoria, British Columbia region with Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario region to uncover what supports are working for international students, what supports are lacking (if any), and how international students’ experiences differ from province to province. As Canada’s intake of international students continues to skyrocket it is essential to uncover the barriers and opportunities facing these future Canadian citizens.
Nelson Graham is a PhD candidate in the Global Governance program of the Balsillie School of International Affairs working with Professor Margaret Walton-Roberts. His expertise centers around Canadian immigration policy, especially economic immigration streams such as immigrant entrepreneur and international student programs. For the past six years Nelson has been researching immigration and volunteering with multiple NGOs and community groups in hopes to remove local level barriers for newcomers seeking to integrate into their new community. His current research investigates the increasing role that higher education intuitions have on the Canadian immigration system.
Nelson is a recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Graduate Doctoral Fellowship and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). Before joining the Global Governance program, Nelson completed his Master of Arts in Geography at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). His SSHRC funded Masters’ studies investigated the barriers and opportunities facing immigrant entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador and resulted in three academic publications. He also completed a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at the University of British Columbia.
Nelson is affiliated with Laurier’s International Migration Research Centre (IMRC).