Canada's foreign recruitment drive may backfire

Canadian institutions' lack of strategic focus could mean that the country's drive to recruit more overseas students backfires, the head of a higher education marketing consultancy has suggested.

September 27, 2012

In a survey of senior institutional administrative staff, under half say that growth in international student services has kept pace with student numbers, said Rod Skinkle, chief executive of the Academica Group.

Speaking on the second day of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Institutional Management in Higher Education General Conference, held in Paris on 17-19 September, Mr Skinkle said that almost 75 per cent of respondents say that their institutions plan to increase international student numbers.

However, almost half are concerned with their institution's ability to maintain on-campus social and community integration, and a third say there will be challenges ahead in understanding and providing for students' cultural and religious needs.

Mr Skinkle framed his research in the context of a range of Canadian government initiatives designed to increase international numbers.

He added that although respondents predict positive effects from the increases, such as more income, there was little evidence to prove it. The inability to keep pace with student service levels meant that the real costs and therefore the benefits to institutions were unknown.

Mr Skinkle said: "If we don't know what the costs are and we're not measuring the impact and outcomes, it's...possible for [students] to have a negative experience and this to have a negative outcome for the institution and its reputation."

He also highlighted the group's 2011 survey, which found mismatches between what international students were looking for and what institutions were offering.

Based on a survey of 5,000 Indian private students, the group found that institutional reputation was the most important factor for those interested in studying abroad.

"The lowest factors are the ones you quite often see in brochures: small class sizes, history and tradition...student diversity and [the] surrounding community," he said.

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