Evaluation of the International Student Program

3. Findings: Relevance

This section discusses the findings of the evaluation concerning the continued need for the ISP, alignment with departmental and government-wide priorities, and alignment with federal roles and responsibilities.

3.1 Continued Need for the International Student Program

Finding 1: There is a continuing need to facilitate the entry of international students, as they provide economic and socio-cultural benefits to Canada.

Most interviewees and documents reviewed confirmed there is a strong continuing need for the ISP as it facilitates the entry of international students who provide economic and socio-cultural benefits to Canada.

From an economic perspective, international students are beneficial to the Canadian economy. Government of Canada publications such as the 2011 Economic Action Plan and DFATD International Education Strategy highlighted the economic benefit that students bring. For example, a 2012 DFATD report estimated that international students spent $8 billion in 2010 while in Canada, translating into $455 million in government tax revenue and 86,570 jobsFootnote 1. In addition to citing this report, most interviewees noted that revenues from international student tuition contribute significantly to the ongoing financial health of Canada's educational institutions and Canada's ability to compete internationally in terms of their quality of education, facilities, and research activities.

In terms of socio-cultural benefits, both CIC and some provincial/territorial documentation (e.g. British Columbia's International Education StrategyFootnote 2) noted that international students increase diversity at Canadian educational institutions and in communities where they reside. Some interviewees explained that this diversity enhances the learning experience and social interaction of both Canadians and international students by fostering cultural exchanges and linkages, which can facilitate future trade relations and understanding between Canada and other countries.

Aside from the immediate benefits during their study, most interviewees expressed that there is a continuing need for international students as they may represent a source of quality candidates for filling labour shortages following their studies as well as if they transition to permanent residency. As the ISP helps individuals attain Canadian work experience, knowledge of English/French, and Canadian degrees and credentials, the Program is seen to provide international students with many key elements which are associated with successful settlement and integration in Canadian society.

Aside from these benefits, another indicator of the need for the ISP is the level of demand and use of the Program. CIC operational data indicates that both the demand for Canada as a destination for international study and the use of the ISP, continues to increase:

  • The total number of student entries increased by 24% from 84,869 entries in 2009 to 111,865 in 2013
  • The number of study permit applications increased by 17% from 120,053 study permit applications in 2009 to 144,680 in 2013.

The growth in the number of applications and entries suggests continuing use and relevance of the ISP.

3.2 Alignment with Government of Canada and CIC Priorities

Finding 2: The ISP is strongly aligned with Government of Canada and CIC priorities to strengthen the Canadian economy.

The need for international students has been articulated as a priority within various Government of Canada documents including the 2013 Economic Action Plan and DFATD's 2014 International Education StrategyFootnote 3. Many interviewees also mentioned that bringing students into the country has been established as a Government priority at both the federal and provincial levels due to the economic benefits they provide.

In terms of CIC priorities, the objectives of ISP to facilitate the entry of international students is articulated in CIC's departmental planning and strategic documents, and supported by CIC's strategic objective for the Temporary Resident Program which aims to "design, develop, and implement policies and programs to facilitate the entry of temporary workers, students, and visitors in a way which maximizes their contribution to Canada's economic, social, and cultural development and protects the health, safety, and security of Canadians."Footnote 4

In addition, interviewees across all groups commented positively on how, during the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers job action in 2013, study permit applications were given priority over other temporary line of business (i.e. visitors and workers) which further suggests the importance of the Program to Canada.

3.3 Alignment with Federal Roles and Responsibilities

Finding 3: The ISP aligns with federal roles and responsibilities to manage the entry of international students to Canada; however, there is also a strong role for provinces and educational institutions to play in terms of supporting program integrity.

While education is a provincial/territorial responsibility, documents reviewed support the conclusion that the ISP aligns with the Government of Canada's roles and responsibilities. As cited in the IRPA, CIC has a responsibility to "facilitate the entry of visitors, students and temporary workers for the purposes such as trade, commerce, tourism, international understanding and cultural, educational and scientific activities"Footnote 5.

Most interviewees agreed that the ISP greatly aligns with federal roles and responsibilities with many citing the federal government's constitutional and legislated authority to determine entry into Canada.

Many interviewees also recognized that education in Canada lies within provincial/territorial jurisdiction, with many stressing the importance of proper coordination between the federal government, provinces and territories, and educational institutions.

All interviewees felt that the balance of responsibilities within the ISP has been greatly improved by the new regulatory framework introduced in June 2014, which has introduced a formal role for provinces/territories in the administration of the ISP, mainly through the designation of post-secondary educational institutions eligible to host international students. These interviewees expressed that the new roles and responsibilities are appropriate given that provinces and territories have a greater capacity than CIC to make a determination on whether a particular school is genuine. In addition, these interviewees were supportive of the compliance reporting portal currently being developed by CIC to support the new regulations, as they noted that educational institutions are best placed to assess and report back to CIC on whether a student is actively pursuing studies.

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