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Canada must aim to attract top Asian students

Canada must brand itself as a partner of choice in higher education and research, and recruit Asian students and researchers to study in the country, the head of one of Canada’s leading universities said in a report.

The report, titled Strengthening education and research connectivity between Canada and Asia: Innovative models for engagement, was the seventh in a series of reports commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives to explore the impact on Canada of Asia’s rise.

“Unprecedented demand for higher education in Asia today offers a multitude of opportunities for Canada,” said Stephen J. Toope, president and vice-chancellor of University of British Columbia. The opportunities, he said, range from “institutional partnerships to facilitate research, to the recruitment of talented international students and researchers, to new markets for Canadian knowledge exports”.

Asia is already the largest source of international students in the world, and the number of Asians looking to study abroad is expected to continue to rise in the coming years, according to the report.

“Canada must embrace an international education strategy that recognizes the importance of education as a way of deepening the relationships with Asian countries,” said Toope, who put forward ten steps to position Canada as the education destination and partner of choice for Asia in the report.

He said Canada must firmly, intentionally and creatively position the Canadian university community in Asia to succeed as both a destination for talented students and researchers, and a vital partner at the institutional level.

“While Canada’s universities have been increasingly successful in recruiting international students – more than doubling in number in the past decade – targeted and sustained investments are required to attract top talent to our campuses,” said Toope.

Chinese mainland has been Canada’s top source for international students for many years, representing almost one-quarter of international undergraduate and graduate students in Canada in 2009 with 23,400 students. Other key Asian markets include India, South Korea and Japan.

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