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International Education: A Key Driver of Canada’s Future Prosperity

Chapter 8: Investments

8.1 Scholarships for international undergraduate students

We recognize that the decision to pursue an international education can be a difficult and costly choice for a talented young undergraduate student to make. Scholarships can be a powerful tool to support the best and brightest undergraduate students in their studies in Canada. Furthermore, we believe that offering a strong suite of Canadian undergraduate scholarships will demonstrate to the world that Canada is open to accepting the world’s top international students and helping them find the means to reach their educational goals. These scholarships must be highly competitive, providing an alluring incentive that excites the world’s top talent about the opportunity to study and conduct research in Canada.

We acknowledge the impact of existing Government of Canada international scholarship programs, such as the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP), as well as the granting councils’ fellowships. We also celebrate the work provinces/territories, individual institutions and the private sector have done to provide awards and financial support for international students. However, many of the submissions and interventions we received and heard suggested that, in general, current funding levels are not sufficient to be able to compete effectively with scholarships offered by our competitors.

We agree with the consensus that emerged during our engagement process, that we need to do more—a well-branded and well-funded scholarship mechanism should be a central tool of the international education strategy. Many stakeholders suggested that even a one-year entrance scholarship program for attracting the best international undergraduate students to begin their studies at Canada’s universities, colleges and polytechnics would have a measurable impact. It was also raised that an undergraduate scholarship program could potentially be co-funded through collaboration between the federal government, provincial/territorial governments, institutions and the private sector, or even through partnerships with foreign governments working to send their students abroad.

We believe that provision of international scholarships reinforces Canada’s international marketing and promotion initiatives and contributes to boosting Canada’s visibility on the world stage. As described in a recent research paper written by Dr. Sheila Embleton and published by the CBIE: “Canadian branding and scholarship offerings can complement each other to recruit and retain international students who can help build [a] dynamic Canada.” 72

International scholarships may also be used as a pathway for a longer stay in Canada. As new students, scholarship recipients will appreciate and celebrate Canada for recognizing their talent. These top students rewarded with a scholarship may decide to continue their studies in Canada, come back at a later date to pursue additional studies or research, and possibly consider Canada as a place to work once they have completed their studies. Upon graduation from Canadian institutions, these students can bear witness to Canada’s education excellence and uphold that reputation as alumni, whether they are in Canada or abroad.

University of British Columbia: Supporting outstanding international students with scholarships

Every year, UBC allocates a portion of international undergraduate tuition fees to support awards for academically outstanding international students who could not otherwise attain a post-secondary education. These need-based awards, unique in size and number among Canadian universities, have enabled access to UBC for more than 200 scholars of exceptional academic and leadership potential from 70 different countries.

One of the programs, the International Student Humanitarian Award (ISHA), opens doors for deserving students from war-torn or severely impoverished regions of the world who have shown great determination to learn under highly challenging conditions. Candidates can be nominated by their secondary schools or by recognized international non-governmental organizations.

Ghanaian student, Regina Nyamekye, winner of a UBC International Student Humanitarian Award, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from UBC in 2011.Ghanaian student, Regina Nyamekye, winner of a UBC International Student Humanitarian Award, received her Bachelor.
Photo courtesy of the University of British Columbia and Martin Dee.

Since 2007, 16 ISHA scholars have studied at UBC. Karen McKellin, Director of UBC’s International Student Initiative, speaks to the immense value ISHA students bring to the university and to Canada: “It is a privilege to host these outstanding and determined students. They are role models for their peers and enrich UBC’s classroom, residence and social environments. Equipped with a first- class education and imbued with Canadian values of civic engagement and tolerance, ISHA scholars be life-long ambassadors for Canada, wherever their future takes them.”

Recommendation 9: Brand Canada through scholarships for international undergraduate students

As a means of attracting top talent at the beginning of their post-secondary education, and to compete more effectively with the major competitor countries for the best and brightest international students, the Government of Canada should provide co-funding for 8,000 new Canada Scholarships for top international undergraduate students to study at Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics. It is anticipated that this investment will be matched by institutions and/or provinces/territories and private donors by a 2:1 ratio.

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8.2 Research grants and scholarships

International graduate and doctorate students, post-doctoral fellows and scholars have the capacity to make valuable contributions to research and innovation in Canada’s universities and research institutes. Canada also has a variety of programs to attract top international talent, but it may be difficult for an international student to find relevant information.

It is important to acknowledge that efforts to recruit at the graduate level and above are different from undergraduate recruitment efforts. On the part of institutions, the recruitment of international researchers is also labour-intensive and requires extensive efforts to showcase their excellence. Beyond the overall experience in Canada, graduate students and scholars are interested in the specific opportunities they can access in Canada, in terms of well-equipped research facilities, faculties and supervisors with expertise in their area of research, and potential funding for their studies and research.

The Vanier CGS and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships represent major investments in attracting and retaining top research talent. Despite this investment, only 25 percent of the Vanier CGS and 31 percent of the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships were awarded to international students in 2011–12. Many of the other awards funded under the Canada Graduate Scholarships program are not open to international researchers.

The Government of Canada also established a basis for funding international research talent through programs such as the Canada Excellence Research Chairs in 2010. CERC has awarded up to $10 million over seven years to each of 19 chair holders who are active in leading research and innovation in areas that support Canada’s S & T strategy. The Canada Research Chairs program also helps Canada recruit the world’s highest-calibre researchers for leading innovation priorities by establishing 2,000 research professorships across the country with an investment of $300 million per year. As of March 2012, nearly one quarter of holders of Canada Research Chairs were recruited from outside of Canada (including expatriate Canadians).73

During the course of our work, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with representatives of Canada’s granting councils (NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR) who are responsible for the administration of many awards. It was noted that there is a significant amount of funding available to international students and researchers through the granting councils. However, the issue is that this funding is parceled out under a variety of programs, with no overarching branding or coordination to highlight their availability to international applicants.

A point that was also repeated during our consultations with stakeholders is that, although initial investments in grants and scholarships for international graduate students and post-doctorates are commendable, these programs must be expanded to compete more effectively with other destination countries. They must also be more effectively packaged and branded to carry the prestige that is sought after by international researchers.

This being said, Canadian stakeholders will work jointly to take advantage of specific opportunities. For example, the Government of Brazil launched the Science Without Borders (SWB) scholarship program in July 2011, with the goal of sending 75,000 Brazilian students to study internationally in areas of science and technology. During his visit to Brazil in April 2012, the Governor General announced that Canada will welcome 12,000 Brazil students. Canadian stakeholders worked collectively on this pan-Canadian approach, making Canada the second-largest beneficiary of the SWB program.

Several of our competitors have already invested heavily in long-standing, world-renowned award programs for international scholars. One of the most well-known is the U.S. Fulbright Program, which has funded more than 192,000 international graduate students and scholars in the United States since it was established in 1946.74 the Chevening Scholarships is another example of a notable global scholarship program, awarded by the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to more than 38,000 scholars since 1983.75 More than 700 Chevening scholars have received funding to attend U.K. universities in 2011–12, and the program maintains a considerable alumni community in over 150 countries. Programs such as these exhibit the value of branding through scholarships to attract international talent and eventually create a network of alumni ambassadors across the globe.

Canada currently does not have its own prestige flagship program that top international students aspire to, but instead a series of programs dispersed through the federal government. Considerable funding is set aside for this purpose, but locating the scholarships can be a challenge for anyone who is not familiar with Canada’s numerous programs. We see a need for Canada to have a unified flagship scholarship program that is recognized the world over.

Recommendation 10: Regroup grants and scholarships available to international graduate students and post-doctoral fellows under one label/brand with a focus on priority areas aligned with Canada’s innovation and prosperity agenda

To enhance Canada’s innovation and S & T strategy, existing funding available to international graduate students in the forms of grants/scholarships from various government agencies should be coordinated and, where necessary, repackaged in such a manner that allows effective promotion under the Canada brand.

Additional investment would allow Canada to leverage existing opportunities to attract top students by matching country-scholarship programs, such as the China Scholarship Council, the Brazilian Science Without Borders scholarships, or the Saudi Arabia King Abdullah scholarships. It will also enable Canada to compete with the key international scholarship countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to attract top scholars and researchers.

The way forward: We recommend a better alignment of international research grants offered through Canada’s granting councils with particular emphasis on a small number of priority countries. An inter-ministerial working group, with representatives from the granting councils and other government departments, could develop a coordinated strategy to re-package existing grants/scholarships to streamline the delivery of the various programs supporting international graduate and post-doctoral students, to ensure cohesive branding and that potential international students are made aware of these opportunities.

Ultimately, all international scholarships should be regrouped under one label/brand, such as Canada Scholarships, to manage all available resources to maximize Canada’s brand recognition. At steady state, there should be sufficient funding (from existing grants and new investments) to enable the Government of Canada to provide 2,000 international graduate scholarships/grants and 1,000 post-doctoral fellowships per year under a unified brand.

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8.3 Bilateral agreements

To attract top post-graduate students and researchers, Canada needs to make foreign institutions more aware of its research capabilities. One of the most effective ways to achieve this goal is to partner with them in joint R & D programs that involve students and researchers from both countries working together. In doing so, professors and top students become aware of Canada’s research excellence, the innovative work of their Canadian counterparts, and potential funding opportunities that can be leveraged, thereby enticing them to conduct research in Canada.

This can best be accomplished through comprehensive agreements—involving not only governments but also educational institutions, education associations, granting councils and scholarship providers—to put in place country-specific strategies that meet the needs of each national partner.

The establishment of comprehensive and multifaceted bilateral agreements will not only attract top international students and researchers. Such bilateral agreements will also promote Canada as an innovative country with cutting-edge research facilities. Canada has the advantage of having world-class research facilities from coast to coast, in a diverse range of disciplines from agriculture to nanotechnology. Through these bilateral agreements, we promote Canada’s brand abroad, but we also promote our excellence in research.

University of Ottawa: Providing research excellence through international collaboration

The University of Ottawa, the largest bilingual university in North America, has provided leadership in research among La Francophonie, both nationally and internationally. During the last 20 years, the University of Ottawa has developed numerous collaborations with other prestigious research institutions throughout the world, particularly in the francophone countries of Europe and Africa. The France-Canada Research Fund (FCRF) is a perfect example of these successful collaborations: it provides seed funding for promising research projects launched jointly by a Canadian and a French researcher. The FCRF also offers funding for study and research for students in both countries. Today, researchers count on the establishment of international networks and collaborations to stimulate their thinking, enrich their knowledge and multiply discoveries. Canada’s International Education Strategy must continue to promote the growth of these partnerships.

In addition, bilateral agreements are mutually beneficial. To keep pace with cutting-edge research, Canada needs to actively participate in international research collaboration. Research brings benefits to Canadians in all spheres: health, environment, information and communications technologies, to name a few. This provides opportunities for the business sector through the commercialization of research, leading to important economic returns that support Canada’s prosperity. Partner countries will also gain the same exposure, research and data. As we heard throughout our engagement process, international education has to be a two-way partnership in which both countries enjoy myriad benefits.

University of Guelph: Collaboration to promote environmental sustainability

A unique private/public partnership between the University of Guelph and the Kinross Gold Corporation was the catalyst for the Canada Brazil Research Network (CABRNET). The network provides enhanced research opportunities and knowledge sharing among Canadian and Brazilian partners, with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity and sustainability in the resource sector.

CABRNET collaborates with the private sector, universities, governments and communities to work toward common goals of promoting environmental sustainability, education and social development. These partnerships have facilitated research collaboration and access to communities, mine sites and fellow academics, while creating opportunities to enhance research, education and cross-cultural connections. Examples of current CABRNET projects include researching best practices in community engagement, minimizing grassland degradation and protecting biodiversity in the resource sector.

“It’s these new collaborations among governments, business and civil society (including universities) that will fuel future innovation and foster connections across sectors and disciplines. CABRNET is an excellent example of this kind of synergy at work,” said Lynne Mitchell, International Liaison Officer for the University of Guelph.

Moreover, research partnerships between Canadian and foreign institutions can make powerful contributions to the global economy. Research is being conducted around the world to address issues that are transnational in scope, such as climate change, natural disaster planning and disease. International research projects bring together knowledge and expertise from countries across the globe to learn more about these issues. These initiatives leverage national resources to collectively advance globally oriented solutions to challenges facing the world today and in the future.

We see the United Kingdom-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) as an example of a research partnership model that is well-supported and mutually beneficial. UKIERI was initiated in 2006 to enhance educational links between the United Kingdom and India and committed more than €25 million ($40 million) to support collaborations in the first phase of the program.76 UKIERI achievements thus far include: 182 U.K.-India partnerships, across the strands of higher education and research, schools, and professional and technical skills, involving over 600 institutions; 55 individual awards through PhD scholarships and fellowships; the opportunity for 393 British students to visit India under the Study India Programme; and facilitating work placements for 105 Indian graduates.77 Based on these achievements, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced in 2010 that the program would be extended for five years, from 2011 to 2016.78

It is important to note that there currently exists an array of international bilateral agreements for education and research collaboration. As a result of the provincial/territorial responsibility for education, agreements can be signed either at a federal or provincial/territorial level, depending on their purpose. For example, China has signed agreements with 9 of the 10 Canadian provinces. Also, many agreements exist at the institutional level or between Canadian and foreign associations. As previously mentioned, DFAIT, in partnership with partners and stakeholders, also signed two key memorandums of understanding, with India and Brazil, since 2010, leading to further co-operation in the fields of education and research. These bilateral agreements should be further promoted and leveraged, while ensuring that they encompass all aspects of education and that a whole-of-Canada approach is taken to implement them.

Recommendation 11: Develop comprehensive and multifaceted bilateral agreements with priority countries that focus on all aspects of graduate education and research, supported by appropriate levels of funding

From our benchmarking work, we have learned of comprehensive and multifaceted bilateral relationships developed by countries (such as the United Kingdom) with priority countries. The panel sees tremendous strategic value for Canada in developing such agreements and recognizes that relationships in the area of R & D already exist with some priority countries. The panel recommends that these elements be incorporated into more comprehensive, country-specific bilateral agreements with a focus on all aspects of graduate education and research, and that appropriate levels of funds be allocated to support such a strategy.

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Date Modified:
2012-08-16