The Canadian government should fund a new programme to send university students abroad in order to better prepare the country’s youth for the future, build relations with emerging economies and stem the rise of intolerance, according to a recent study.
A report from the Study Group on Global Education, an independent group of Canadian policy experts, private-sector leaders and university presidents, calls for the government to set a national target of one-quarter of all Canadian post-secondary students going abroad within 10 years.
It also advocates for the establishment of a new programme to support 15,000 Canadian students annually to go abroad within five years, rising to 30,000 a year within a decade. Half the students on the scheme should be going to emerging economy countries within 10 years, it adds.
It estimates that this would cost the government about C$75 million (£45 million) a year for the first five years.
Currently, some 11 per cent of Canadian university undergraduates participate in an international experience over the course of their degree. The majority of these students go to the US, Western Europe and Australia and study in their native language.
The report, Global Education for Canadians: Equipping Young Canadians to Succeed at Home and Abroad, says that Canada should establish a list of priority emerging regions or countries for the initiative, based on Canada’s economic and foreign policy interests and other nations’ opportunities to strengthen research and innovation in Canada.
It also calls for the initiative to establish tailored programmes aimed at boosting the participation of students from under-represented groups.
“As we have seen, economic and political weight is shifting to emerging economies, technological change is altering the nature of work, and intolerance is on the rise,” says the report.
“The next generation of Canadian employees, innovators, entrepreneurs, and public- and private-sector leaders need to be equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge and outlooks to succeed – indeed to thrive – in this rapidly transforming world.”
Canada already has an ambitious strategy aimed at attracting international students; in 2014 the country set out plans to attract 450,000 international students by 2022, roughly double the number in 2011.
But the report notes that unlike the US, Australia and some European Union countries, Canada lacks an equivalent outbound student mobility initiative.
For example, Germany has committed to a goal of 50 per cent of all students having international educational experiences by 2020, while in 2014 the US’ Institute of International Education introduced an initiative to double the number of Americans studying abroad by the end of the decade.
In the UK, meanwhile, a new campaign from Universities UK International aims to double the proportion of Britons studying abroad to 13 per cent by 2020.