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Quebec Has Great Potential to Attract and Retain More International Students

| Apr 04, 2017
Kareem El-Assal Kareem El-Assal
Research Associate,
Education and Immigration Research

There are many reasons why an international student would want to study in Quebec. The province offers international students excellent colleges and universities, globally competitive tuition fees, a heritage like no other in North America, the opportunity to learn French and English, a multicultural environment, and plenty of leisure activities.

Yet, our new report shows that Quebec ranks last among all Canadian provinces in terms of attracting new international students since 1999. How can this be the case?

Based on our interviews with Quebec post-secondary education (PSE) administrators and government officials, we uncovered several potential reasons why the province has experienced difficulties attracting international students.

The biggest perceived challenge, according to PSE interviewees, is the lack of an international education strategy to guide the province’s efforts to attract more international students. Currently, PSE institutions go out and promote themselves on their own, rather than working under one umbrella with a focused branding and marketing campaign to highlight Quebec’s attractive features.

Another challenge is that Quebec post-secondary institutes depend on francophone nations for most of their international student enrolments. Francophones make up a small fraction of the global international student pool. Key source countries of international students such as China, South Korea, and India—which make up one-quarter of the 5 million international students worldwide—are under-represented in Quebec.

In addition, some PSE interviewees hypothesized that Quebec’s regulations for university tuition is hindering the province’s efforts to attract more international students. Unlike the rest of Canada, where universities set tuition for international students, Quebec universities charge tuition that is imposed by the provincial government (except in six disciplines that were deregulated in 2008). As such, these interviewees claimed there is a diminished financial incentive for universities to seek more international students. Why invest time and money to attract international students only to break even?

Quebec also wants to retain more international students as immigrants, which makes sense given the province’s need for newcomers due to its aging population and low birth rate. Quebec has the oldest population in the country outside of the four Atlantic provinces. But, international students face several retention challenges.

While the Government of Quebec is offering more online resources to help international students learn French, international students often struggle to become proficient enough to qualify for immigration to Quebec. They also do not have access to the settlement services that immigrants in Quebec and across Canada depend on to integrate into society. Furthermore, they face the same issue that young Canadians experience: landing that first professional job upon graduation. This challenge is compounded by some employers being unfamiliar with immigration rules, and thus refraining from hiring international students.

Our report proposes six suggestions to help Quebec address these issues. By working more closely together, the provincial government, PSE institutes, employers, and other key stakeholders such as economic development agencies can better capitalize on Quebec’s strengths to reap greater benefits from international students.

Read the report here.

Canadian Immigration Summit 2017: Innovating at 150 and Beyond

On May 9–10, the Conference Board will host its third annual Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa to discuss innovations that could help build an even stronger immigration system over the next 150 years. Distinguished speakers include ministers Ahmed Hussen, Laura Albanese, Kathleen Weil, Lena Diab, and Donald Arseneault. Make sure to sign up!

Related Summit

Canadian Immigration Summit 2017: Innovating at 150 and Beyond
Tuesday May 9–Wednesday May 10 2017 • Shaw Centre • Ottawa, ON

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