A colleague has helped me understand how government immigration policy is evolving and it is becoming clear to me that it will greatly influence future international students. In the past Canada viewed immigration as a way to bring people to the country to help meet a growing need.
In his book Urban Nation, Alan Broadbent points out that Canada's economy in the early 1900's required farmers so immigrants were sought who understood farming. Not surprisingly, today the government seeks immigrants with a high level of education from their home country that have experience with the modern information economy.
Rather than continuing the focus on attracting immigrants that have already received their education the government now seems to be turning their attention to attracting students from abroad, educating them and enticing them to stay here. The advantage of this new approach from the government's perspective is that the type of education the student's receive is tailored more to Canadian needs. Furthermore, a university or college student, being younger and more likely to be single, is in a place where it will be easier for them to adjust to Canadian society.
The Ontario government's recent Throne speech endorsed this approach by indicating a desire to double the number of international students in the province. Another recent example is the change made by government to allow international students to work off-campus. Broadbent points out that "the biggest single factor in successful immigrant settlement is the ability to find a good job" and giving international students the opportunity to work beyond the campus borders exposes students to jobs and employers to talent. This mix is certain to promote understanding and help develop relationships that could serve everyone in Canada well.
In March StatsCan published a report predicating some changes in the diversity of the Canadian population over the next 20 years. One point was that at least a quarter of the population will be foreign-born by 2031. A second point is that our major cities will be much more diverse then elsewhere in the country. In fact, the reports says "By 2031, according to the reference scenario, more than 71% of all visible minority people would live in Canada's three largest census metropolitan areas: Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal."
Higher Education seems to be well placed to take advantage of these new opportunities. And within Higher Education an opportunity exists for Students Affairs to play an increasingly prominent role because international students will rely on international student advisors for assistance and career centres for employment.