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A whole world of students for Manitoba

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In 2012, the Canadian International Education Advisory Panel recommended increasing Canada's international student numbers from 265,000 to more than 400,000 within 10 years.

Though progress has been made in recent years, the size of the Manitoba international student population still lags behind other provinces. British Columbia, for instance, accounted for 25 per cent of Canada's international student population, while Manitoba claimed only three per cent.

Now, thanks to new legislation, Manitoba has the leverage to attract more students from around the world by demonstrating international education in our province is of the best quality and is maintained by stringent standards: Bill 44, the International Education Act, was given royal assent in the Manitoba legislature Dec. 5. The legislation will act as a seal of quality to show prospective international students and their families Manitoba provides education worth investing in.

The International Education Act will establish a code of conduct for institutions that educate international students, creating consistently high standards across the province. This will set requirements on recruitment methods, course quality and student supports and will aim to prevent misleading or deceptive conduct in relation to international students.

It will also mean an education provider must be approved to enrol international students. Lists of non-complying providers and recruiters will be made public.

Accountability has always been a top priority for the International College of Manitoba (ICM), and for this reason we welcome the International Education Act. ICM has a recognition agreement with the University of Manitoba whereby it offers the equivalent of first year university on the U of M campus to international students in a supportive environment. Upon successful completion, students enter second year in regular classes at the U of M. This soft landing helps students move successfully to a Canadian learning environment.

ICM has more than 850 students, and we've educated students from more than 72 countries. A further 825 students have completed the ICM program, 95 per cent of whom have been admitted to the U of M. These are high-achieving individuals worthy of our support.

The new act will also be a key protector of international students' rights. It will make all institutions, both private and public, accountable -- something Navitas, ICM's parent company, has been doing for many years.

Manitoba's international students have also brought significant economic benefits to Manitoba. In 2010, Manitoba hosted more than 5,700 international students at its educational institutions, according to the report Economic Impact of International Education in Canada -- An Update. The report found these students generated an economic benefit of more than $153 million for the province. Across Canada, international students have contributed more than $8 billion to the national economy.

The students also created employment for 1,640 people, not just in education. They have joined our communities and become part of the fabric of Manitoban culture. Like you and I, they have rented apartments, eaten out and bought groceries and clothing. They've also welcomed visits from their parents and relatives from overseas, lending a boost to Manitoba's tourism, retail, hospitality and real estate sectors.

The benefits international students bring to Manitoba go far beyond the economic. They diversify the culture of our classes and campuses, they create additional opportunities for research and learning and they allow students to form friendships that foster international goodwill and understanding. Such relationships will help form the diplomatic relations of our future leaders.

Canada has long lagged behind other top international education destinations in the regulations for international students. The International Education Act will start to elevate Manitoba to international standards, building the province's reputation as a high-quality education destination.

As the flow of international students into Manitoba increases, the creation of an industry benchmark for international education and the protection of student's rights, will become ever more important.


Susan Deane is the college director and principal of the International College Manitoba.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2013 A17

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