Canada and Australia are emerging as attractive education destinations for prospective international students
Prospective international students may be drawn to these two countries' smoother visa process and work opportunities.
Canada and Australia have goals to attract more international students to their universities with policies that include more relaxed visa procedures, work rules and paths to citizenship. And given the current unsettled political climate in the U.S. – as well as the United Kingdom – Canada and Australia are emerging as attractive education destinations for prospective international students.
Independent education consultant Zahra Rasul, founder and owner of Rasul Learning Group in Vancouver, says many of the firm's international clientele typically seek entrance into American universities. But she says that trend is quickly changing.
This application cycle compared to the last, she's seen a 25 percent increase in the number of international students applying to Canadian universities.
"Our Canadian students seem to also have shifted their focus away from the U.K. and the U.S. and are either choosing to remain in Canada or go to Australia," says Rasul.
Apart from Canadian universities offering high-quality education, she says many international students are drawn by the country's immigration policy and job opportunities. Rasul says a Taiwanese client turned down King's College London for McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, "because she seeks a path to citizenship in Canada."
Brazilian national Ligia Braidotti says she chose to study journalism in Canada because of the opportunity to work and live there longer after graduation than in the U.S. She graduated from Red River College in 2016 and is working for a community newspaper in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
"Here I have opportunities to work in my field of study and apply for permanent residency, which leads to citizenship," says Braidotti.
In 2016, international students chose Canada because of its education system's reputation, its tolerant and nondiscriminatory society and its reputation as a safe country, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education's international student survey.
Inviting international students to Canada is part of a government strategy to attract talent for job creation and economic growth. In November 2016, changes to Canada's Express Entry program – a merit-based system that allows skilled workers to immigrate – made it easier for international students to become Canadian citizens.
Enrolled international students with a study permit are allowed to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full time during scheduled breaks. With a postgraduation work permit, international students may continue working in Canada for up to three years after completing their studies.
In addition, Rasul says the progressive political climate in Canada under the current liberal administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – in contrast to the U.S.' more conservative administration, led by President Donald Trump, and particularly its stance on immigration – makes Canada attractive to prospective international students.
One of Rasul's clients, who is a United Arab Emirates national, this year turned down early admission to Rice University in favor of the University of British Columbia, believing Canada offers him greater safety and religious freedom.
Australia is also earning a reputation as a popular study destination for international students. Last year, the number of international students in Australia hit a record high, with more than 550,000 international students from 190 nationalities, according to the Australian Department of Education and Training. Per the department, international education is Australia's third largest export.
Early this year, the department released the results of its biennial international student survey, in which 89 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with their study experience. The survey showed that the quality and global reputation of Australia's higher education system and degrees as well as personal safety and security were primary factors drawing international students.
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Susan Elliott, professor and deputy vice-chancellor international at the University of Melbourne, said via email that the school's "extensive global networks and performance in international rankings puts us at the forefront of higher education in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond." She says this makes the school an attractive study destination for international students.
Prospective international students may also find appealing the ease with which they can secure student visas and work opportunities during their academic studies and postgraduation in Australia.
The government recently made the visa application process simpler for international students to navigate. Last April, it released the first National Strategy for International Education 2025, a 10-year plan for expanding Australia's global role in education, research and training. The plan in part focused on strengthening graduate employability.
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International students can work part time during their studies and, depending on their visa, may remain in Australia for up to four years after graduation.
Ever since American Anna Donlan visited Australia in 2010 for a two-week volunteer program, she knew she had to go back. Now in her final year at the University of Melbourne's Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, she says she chose Australia for the path to permanent residency as well as for work opportunities.
"At the moment, I would like to obtain permanent residency in Australia and start working in Australia for the first couple of years out of school and then see where life takes me," says Donlan. She may pursue full citizenship in the future too.
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