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ARCHIVED - International Education: A Key Driver of Canada’s Future Prosperity
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Message from the Advisory Panel
- Chapter 1: Mandate of the Advisory Panel
- 1.1 Guiding principles
- 1.2 Our vision for Canada
- 1.3 Process
- 1.4 Research papers
- 1.5 Our value proposition: consistent quality at a reasonable cost
- 1.6 Parameters for the work of the panel
- Chapter 2: Why International Education Matters
- Chapter 3: Context for Our Recommendations
- 3.1 Importance of provincial/territorial jurisdiction
- 3.2 Contributions of the federal government
- 3.3 Current contributions of all partners and stakeholders
- 3.4 Dovetailing with previous expert panels
- 3.5 Environmental scan: The international education landscape
- Chapter 4: Themes for the Recommendations
- Chapter 5: Targets for Success
- Chapter 6: Policy Coordination and Ensuring Sustainable Quality
- Chapter 7: Promotion of "Education in Canada"
- Chapter 8: Investments
- Chapter 9: Infrastructure and Support
- Chapter 10: Spirit of Engagement
- Chapter 11: Conclusion
- Annex A: Research that Informed Our Recommendations
- Annex B: Biographies of Panel Members
- Annex C: Competitor Metrics and Practices
- Annex D: Stakeholders in the Canadian Education Community
- Annex E: Conceptualizing a Digital Strategy
Chapter 7: Promotion of “Education in Canada”
7.1 Priority markets
During our deliberations, we recognized that most Canadian education institutions prefer to have a diversity of international students, although they realize there may be efficiencies in recruiting in a select number of priority markets. They also see the importance of moving beyond the more established markets.
Individual education institutions across the various education sectors are targeting a wide range of countries for their recruitment efforts, using different types of criteria in their decisions, such as institutional partnerships, countries/regions that match their program and/or research specialities, and existing contacts, networks, alumni and relationships with education agents.
To support education institutions in Canada with their marketing endeavours, the Government of Canada had also identified a list of priority markets and regions in which it would focus its efforts. In 2007, DFAIT’s consultation with institutions, provinces/territories as well as stakeholders resulted in identifying nine priority markets and four regions, ensuring alignment and diversity in international education promotion efforts.
Through our engagement process, we invited partners and stakeholders to identify priority markets in which the Government of Canada should focus its efforts. One of the main criteria for our evaluation was to look for the markets that offered the greatest growth potential for post-secondary education for Canada, based on market reports shared by DFAIT. Suggestions were shared through the online consultation, the cross-Canada round tables, a collaborative event, and a benchmarking visit to Asia. Provinces/territories were also consulted separately through DFAIT to ensure alignment in efforts. As well, CIC was consulted to ensure that the visa offices in the identified countries would have the capacity to accommodate an increase in study permit applications.
To complete our list of recommended priority markets, we looked at priorities identified by the provinces/territories for education marketing efforts, reviewed the findings of our consultation process, and evaluated trends in international student numbers from key markets. Our findings were also compared with existing Government of Canada policies and priorities to ensure alignment.
To this end, DFAIT consulted with all ten provinces, given their high level of engagement in international education, to identify their priority markets.
Priority countries and regions for the provinces were:
Subsequently, during our online consultation process, we asked stakeholders about key markets of interest in their internationalization efforts. In the submissions we received, there was a total of 994 mentions of individual countries or regions of the world as either established, emerging or markets of future potential interest (78 individual countries, many of which were only referenced once or twice, and 18 regions or sub-regions). Based on this list, we saw that although priorities may vary across education subsectors, overall there were several countries and regions that appeared often as markets presenting great opportunities or potential. The most frequently mentioned countries and regions are as follows:
These two separate consultation processes pointed us to a list of potential markets for the IES. To further refine our selection and identify where the best prospects for growth were, we assessed data from CIC on the number of new international student entries from Canada’s top 25 source countries between 2001 and 2010.
United States of America
Federal Republic of Germany
United Kingdom and Colonies
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
United Arab Emirates
Republic of Indonesia
|Top 25 countries|
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2010 Facts and Figures.
We recognized that in the current fiscal environment, resources are limited. In order to deliver an effective strategy, the Government of Canada should focus its efforts in a limited number of markets where significant progress can be made to brand Canada as a country worthy of attracting top talent. Targeted resource allocations can be more efficiently implemented, monitored and evaluated. Focusing our efforts on a few key markets will ensure the best return on investment. In the words of Michael E. Porter, Professor at Harvard Business School and a leading authority on competitive strategy, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
Both emerging and mature markets were considered in this process. Notwithstanding the greater emphasis on specific priority markets, it is important to recognize that with an increased investment in international education marketing, the Government of Canada will now be able to allocate a greater amount of resources to all other markets than is the case today.
Recommendation 6: Focus Canada’s promotional efforts on a limited number of priority markets for targeted resource allocation
We recommend that resources for promotion activities should be focused on the markets assessed to have the greatest growth potential for Canada: China, India, Brazil, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region including Turkey, Vietnam and Mexico. These markets should receive priority resource allocation. Mature markets, such as South Korea, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, should receive substantial resources to maintain their activities at a level at least equivalent to current funding.
The way forward: A re-evaluation of priority markets should be carried out every three years (under the purview of the CIER with appropriate consultation with provinces/territories and CIC). As one size does not fit all, the panel recommends the development of country-specific strategies and an enhanced role for Canadian embassies and offices abroad. The activities will draw heavily on a strengthened, innovative and renewed e-platform.
We also recommend that in order to complement the expertise of the Trade Commissioner Service, experts from the academic institutions or associations should be seconded to DFAIT. Canadian offices abroad in the key markets should form education teams composed of trade commissioners and visa officers. These education teams should be accountable to the head of mission for the promotion and facilitation of the international student recruitment process.
7.2 Marketing Canada’s brand
The overarching goal of an international education strategy is to brand Canada internationally as a choice destination for talented people from around the world for studying, conducting research and potentially immigrating. Canada has a unique opportunity to take advantage of its natural strengths (strong economic foundation, safe environment, an ever-growing multicultural population with ties to the world and recent changes to our immigration policy under the Canadian Experience Class). Canada is thus well positioned to gain greater market share while continuing to raise its international profile.
The deliberations of the panel have led to the conclusion that Canada can double the number of international students in 10 years while maintaining high-quality standards (to maintain brand integrity). The brand, corresponding to a pan-Canadian approach, is the central piece of all marketing initiatives. Edu-Canada’s significant accomplishment was the successful negotiations with the provinces/territories to create the Imagine Education au/in Canada brand.xii It must be recognized that the education brand for Canada is larger than either the brand name or logo. It is a reflection of the quality, diversity and opportunity of Canada’s education offerings.
We know that students choose a destination country in the first step of their selection process and that a coordinated approach will best serve all education sectors by leveraging Canada’s existing country brand, which is already very positive. Simon Anholt, creator of the nation Brands Index, agrees that Canada is globally admired but suggests there is not a clear country brand that can be articulated. Canada is well liked, but people are not quite sure why.
In 2007, research was presented for Canada to learn more about international student decision making. JWT Education completed public opinion research with 371 international students currently studying in Canada and 190 international students studying outside of Canada. Respondents represented a total of 80 nationalities.
Factor chosen first when undertaking study overseas
Source: JWT Education, Quantitative Survey Among International Students, Factors that Influence Students’ Considerations for Overseas Study. Presentation to the National Education Marketing Roundtable, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. 2007.
Clearly, a coordinated approach where Canada can speak with one voice will best serve all provinces/territories and education sectors across Canada. If Canada is to be successful in gaining greater market share against competitors, this is the time to launch a more sophisticated strategy because the foundation exists through the collaborative federal-provincial/territorial brand arrangement.
The groundwork has already been done. Canada can present a unified, attractive message that represents the excellence of our learning institutions and the promise of an unequalled education experience for international students. The delivery of this brand message will evolve to gain global recognition and reflect the tangible benefits of specific education subsectors in Canada. Successful branding initiatives must be responsive to the brand user in Canada and reaction by the primary audience: international students.
Currently, the brand logo is trademarked in 90 countries. The panel reviewed the branding process to learn more about the composition of the brand logo and how it came to fruition. This logo is the protected visual identity of the brand and comprises a maple leaf (the most recognizable symbol for Canada), the signature, Education au/in Canada (which suggests bilingualism as well as language used by competitors who most often use their country name associated with “Education in”) and a slogan, Imagine (which is a personal proposition inviting students to interpret what they will read and see).
Opinions varied on the effectiveness of the Imagine Education au/in Canada name. For example, several discussions raised concerns about the user “unfriendliness” of “au/in” (which was a compromise reached to reflect Canada’s bilingualism). While there may be a strong reticence on the part of federal/provincial/territorial governments to re-engage in the extensive consultative process needed to re-evaluate or revisit the brand name, there is strong interest to develop a novel campaign to support niche sectors, building upon success to date.
“The members of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne (AUFC) collectively play a valuable role in the enhancement of Canada’s brand and the Canadian identity. Through their promotion of the Canadian francophone and linguistic duality, they increase the attractiveness of Canada as a destination to study and as a research partner.”
Marc Arnal, President, Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne. Dean, Campus Saint-Jean at the University of Alberta
Results of public opinion research will best inform the future direction for branding initiatives. Consensus would indicate that building on the current basis would be the best use of resources. However, it is imperative that the brand evolve, especially to respond to subsector–brand differentiation. Overall, a greater effort for the brand to be recognized should be a central priority.xiii Through the consultation process, it was recommended that DFAIT and CMEC continue their existing collaboration on the management of the brand, noting that they must evaluate and build on the existing products. An immediate action would be to engage with education stakeholders to identify ways for different sectors to differentiate brand tools to best reflect their offerings while maintaining consistent imaging and messaging.
A foundational understanding of primary, secondary and tertiary audiences is fundamental in launching and evolving a brand strategy. As the education brand evolves to meet the niche sectors in education, it can also evolve to meet the broader needs of our entire audience. This includes specific needs that should be addressed accordingly. A brief profile of the international audience for education promotion may be summarized in key groups:
- The primary target market is international students and researchers residing outside of Canada who have an interest in study abroad at all levels of education. Branding communications must use the technological tools that scholars need to search for country information, programs, reputation, scholarships, fees, lifestyle, careers, events and advice. With current social media networks, our audiences also want to be able to share their findings.
- Potential partners for international agreements and collaborations are also a primary audience. This group of professional educators seeks high-calibre reciprocal agreements and needs a coordinated presence to identify opportunities and facilitate the signing of agreements.
- The secondary target market includes a broader audience: parents, who have significant influence over decisions and referrals. They seek content in their primary language, referrals, familiarity, rankings and quality assurance. They want to know that a credential is recognized.
- Agents are key influencers in many markets but are usually on contract with institutions. These education consultants require training for ongoing quality assurance. While the Government of Canada does not monitor agents for compliance, best practices should be established by institutions via their contractual agreements to foster a culture of excellence in representing information on Canada.
- School counsellors and teachers seek tools for advising students, preparing them for careers and providing tips for transition to a new country. Canadian teachers are an asset and can be a specific referral network, if properly recognized and included in a branding campaign.
- Media is an extremely valuable outlet given the rising interest in international education. Journalists require quick access (preferably online) to authoritative information with a toolkit including messages, facts, storyboards, video, photos for placement and interview opportunities, when appropriate.
- The tertiary audience is a valuable referral network that offers a direct relationship with education in Canada and includes alumni, current and exchange students and scholarship recipients. This target market requires a specific communications strategy, as international students and parents rely on personal contacts and referrals to make decisions about where to study. Often, members of this audience return to their home country and bring with them a unique and ongoing relationship with Canada.
- Finally, of critical importance is our internal audience. The Canadian public and the education sector in Canada must hear an articulated and tangible rationale regarding the value of international education as it relates to their own interests. It is important to identify how Canadian students, educators, associations, businesses and communities can participate in international education opportunities for their own benefit, to ensure an inviting and sustainable strategy exists for Canadians as well as for international students and researchers.
In developing a comprehensive communications strategy, the most effective channels to deliver Canada’s education brand message will be further realised. This can be done through many of the existing activities (promotion events, in-person advising, earned and paid media, Web and social media networks) as well as through innovative channels that will continue to emerge as the “new best thing.” Experts in the field of education and, in particular, those with an in-country lens will best inform delivery channels and opportunities for specific niche markets. There is great potential to coordinate initiatives with provinces/territories as well as with stakeholders and individual institutions.
Factors that influence students’ considerations for overseas study
Source: JWT Education, Quantitative Survey Among International Students, Factors that Influence Students’ Considerations for Overseas Study. Presentation to the National Education Marketing Roundtable, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. 2007.
Recommendation 7: Increase marketing of Canada's brand
Research shows that international students first choose the country in which they wish to study and subsequently, the institution. A stronger presence of the Canada brand abroad at key international events, where stakeholders and institutions are united under one banner, will strengthen Canada’s recognition and international students’ exposure to the possibility of studying and conducting research in Canada.
The way forward: Develop a comprehensive communications strategy that will see the profile of the Imagine Education au/in Canada brand reflected in all areas of marketing, media relations, event promotion and digital communications to ensure the coordinated messages of the brand proposition and representation of education opportunities in Canada are delivered with even greater impact, and develop comprehensive strategies for priority countries. Organizing participation at key international education trade fairs, branded promotion activities and continued Canada trade fairs are all part of this initiative. Tailored activities should be undertaken for specific subsectors to ensure the niche needs of each sector are met and that brand-eligible education providers in Canada come to fully endorse and apply the brand in their own marketing activities.
7.3 Digital strategy
During our consultation and particularly at the collaboratory, consensus was reached that an “enhanced, comprehensive marketing approach” was a top priority for the strategy. Given an international youth audience and a new era in marketing communications, the digital platform should become the most prominent tool for delivering a strategy that will have worldwide reach in building a brand relationship. This would involve using current marketing tools and an inclusive communications strategy throughout the international student cycle to attract a prospective student, engage an applicant, share the experience of a registered student and finally, to promote the success of international graduates in Canada and abroad. Furthermore, broadening the current student audience will enable a more comprehensive strategy to include all appropriate influencers who are involved in international education. This may include partner institutions, foreign governments, parents, agents, alumni, current student peer networks and media.
In building a digital strategy, it is recommended that all initiatives be coordinated (if not delivered centrally) to ensure that the overarching marketing plan connects all activities—education events, promotion campaigns and e-communications—with an articulated outcome that can be measured. The full spectrum of activities should be coordinated under the same umbrella to support the recognition of Canada’s brand.
Why is the Internet so important?
Recent research shows that the Internet, and increasingly social media, is an assumed component to any international marketing strategy. Internet strategies can be managed, targeted, personalized and measured for performance. The reach of a digital strategy can be far greater than any other traditional media. The Television Bureau of Canada reports that 77 percent of users between the ages of 18 and 24 consume media online or cross-platform, rather than on television alone.
Media consumption in Canada, 2011 by age distribution
Source: Television Bureau of Canada.
It is also important to consider the international context for world Internet usage, Internet penetration in key regions and use of social media networks in key countries. There are now 2.27 billion Internet users globally. That figure represents 32.7 percent of the global population, and suggests an increasing focus on social media engagement. While access is not equal in all parts of the world, mobile technology and social media tools are enabling greater access, quickly revolutionizing communications strategies.
There are significant opportunities to develop unique tools that will differentiate Canada as we seek to attract top talent through education. Initial investments in the international education promotion website (originally dubbed Live, Learn and Succeed), launched by DFAIT in the 1990s, created an innovative tool with applications for users to search for programs, to identify tuition costs and to personalize visa requirements through an interconnected database pulling program and tuition content from existing government databases at HRSDC and CIC.
World internet penetration rates by geographic regions, 2011
Source: Internet World Stats, Penetration rates are based on a world population of 6,930,055,154 and 2,267,233,742 estimated Internet users on December 31, 2011. Copyright© 2012, Miniwatts Marketing Group
Competitor innovation and technology advancements have now introduced additional initiatives for mobile users, social networks, “smart” question and answer software and personalized client profiles. It is time for greater investment to ensure Canada remains competitive in attracting scholars and linking education and research opportunities to labour market needs and immigration incentives. With this in mind, a strong website is recommended in support of social media to ensure there is an “authoritative source” behind social networks. Possible components of the website could include:
- Tools to search for programs, career links, scholarships and visa processing
- Applications (tools) to generate action from using the site (e.g. apply to study in Canada, share media stories, agent advising, peer sharing, travel planning)
- General description of institutions
- Comprehensive information on scholarships and bursaries
- Visa and immigration details
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Interactive maps
- Video testimonials
- Coordination with tourism or labour market opportunities
- Toolkit to prepare students for their transition to Canada
- Multilingual content to support parents
- Google search
- Online service for peer-to-peer mentorship
- Promotional application for mobile devices
It was also raised that the application process ought to be easy for students to navigate, from searching to registration. An external application centre (i.e. a one-stop shop) for international applicants to use was raised as a tool to ensure the process is user-friendly. This could be complemented by an online mentoring centre. Tools exist for online interaction and can fairly easily be implemented with appropriate human and financial set-up resources. Ongoing maintenance is less resource intensive once the primary questions and answers are compiled in a database. The application system may be more complex, given existing application centres that primarily focus on Canadian students in key provinces and the independent application systems in place for each institution to attract and manage relationships with their own international applicants.
Further modeling of the potential for a digital strategy is included in Annex D.
Recommendation 8: Develop a sophisticated and comprehensive e-communication system that will serve as a national portal for international students interested in education in Canada
To effectively share information with potential international students, it is critical to have a sophisticated website that is well populated with easy-to-navigate resource material on education options in Canada. This website could have comprehensive information on institutions, with links to each institution’s website; a comprehensive list of potential programs of study; advantages of studying in Canada; and video testimonials from international students currently studying in Canada. As peer-to-peer marketing is known to be particularly effective, alumni testimonials should also be featured prominently.
The world has undergone a digitization process. The Canadian embassy in Beijing’s Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter) currently has 300,000 members. We strongly believe that e-marketing has replaced the bricks and mortar approach, given its capacity to multiply the effectiveness of communication. As such, the panel urges investments in a leading-edge and centralized e-communication system.
This sophisticated operation should be carried out in three phases:
- Information sharing: marketing and providing student advice (social networking)
- Integration with a pan-Canadian coordination centre for online student applications
- Integration with visa processing (CIC)
The way forward: The panel recommends a thorough re-tooling and upgrading of the current website, which could be designed by a professional e-commerce company external to government. The enhancement of the website should be coupled with a greater use of social media platforms to communicate Canada’s marketing messages, tailoring key messages for social media usages in specific priority countries.
A pan-Canadian coordination centre: In phase two, explore coordinating international student applications to Canadian institutions through the use of state-of-the-art information technology. Given provincial/territorial jurisdiction for education, a pan-Canadian coordination centre would best be facilitated by the CMEC.
In phase three, integration with visa processing would occur. This would require continued and strengthened collaboration between DFAIT and CIC.
xii In 2008, deputy ministers of education of all 10 provinces, working closely with DFAIT, approved by consensus the proposed pan-Canadian education brand called Imagine Education au/in Canada, with the understanding that it would be jointly managed by DFAIT and CMEC, on behalf of the provinces/territories. In June 2008, Edu-Canada started to develop promotional material and communications tools using the brand.
xiii Branded bilingual (and multilingual) materials developed include promotional brochures, sectoral brochures, map of post-secondary institutions, video, graphic details, pavilions and additional promotional paraphernalia as required for a specific audience/function.
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