Douglas Todd: Canada’s foreign-student policy needs public review, say experts

Noteworthy from who the call is coming from, the generally pro-immigration experts. Royal commissions appear to have fallen out of  favour given the time involved but nevertheless Canada benefits from those more in-depth reviews:

The public is in the dark about how Canadian immigration policy has been changed to give preference to international students, say experts.

Ottawa should set up a royal commission to look into issues such as whether Canadians agree that foreign students, who tend to come from the “cream of the crop” in their homelands, should go to the front of the line for permanent residence status, says Chris Friesen, who chairs the umbrella body overseeing settlement services in Canada.

Most Canadians have no idea that roughly one in three people approved each year as immigrants — especially during COVID-19-battered 2020 — were already living in the country as either foreign students or temporary workers, says Friesen, who also directs the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., which has provided support to tens of thousands of newcomers.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada’s foreign-student policy needs public review, say experts

ICYMI: International students frustrated by federal work limits during pandemic

Understandable frustration but students are here foremost to study:

Pooria Behrouzy was honoured to be offered a full-time job as a COVID-19 vaccine support worker at Trillium Health Partners last month.

The international student in health informatics at George Brown College was already on staff at the Mississauga, Ont., hospital network after working on an IT project, and he was eager to contribute to the rollout of the vaccine that’s brought hope during the pandemic’s increasingly grim second wave.

But a roadblock stopped Behrouzy from accepting the full-time shifts offered: as an international student, he can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session or he risks losing his study permit and legal status in Canada.

Behrouzy, who is now working part time at the hospital, said it’s disappointing that he can’t contribute fully.

“I can work and I can help against this COVID … why (am I) not able to do that?” said the 42-year-old, who is from Iran. “It’s very sad that I’m not fully available.”

His colleague Passang Yugyel Tenzin had a similar experience.

Tenzin, a 26-year-old graduate of health informatics currently studying in another IT program, was working on the same project at the hospital as Behrouzy before he received an offer to work on the vaccine support team as well.

The non-medical role involves providing scheduling support to ensure all available doses are administered and other administrative tasks that keep the process running smoothly.

Tenzin, who is from Bhutan, signed on for the job in a part-time capacity but noted that the 20-hour limit would make scheduling 12-hour shifts a challenge.

Working full time would be beneficial for his own education and for the health-care system that’s struggling to keep up with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, vaccinations and other important services, he said.

“We can learn more and on top of that, we can contribute more to this situation currently, because they actually need a lot of people,” Tenzin said in a phone interview.

“We can contribute a lot if we were given the opportunity to work full time.”

Ottawa temporarily lifted the restriction on international students’ work hours last April, saying the change was aimed at easing the staffing crunch in health care and other essential workplaces.

The measure expired on Aug. 31, 2020, and has not been reinstated.

The press secretary for the office of the federal immigration minister said the government is grateful for the role newcomers have played in Canada’s pandemic response.

“As more students returned to regular studies in the fall of 2020, the work hour restriction was reinstated at the request of provinces, territories and educational institutions, due to concerns about students working full time while also completing a full course load,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

Behrouzy said he doesn’t understand why the limit on work hours was reinstated while the pandemic is still ongoing and hospitals need more support than ever.

“I’m available to work and all the schools, the universities and colleges are remote now, so why not extend this exception again?” he said. “It’s really disappointing.”

Trillium Health Partners said in a statement that it’s continually assessing staffing needs at its COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and international students currently work on its vaccine team in administrative functions.

“THP supports and accommodates international students within the federal government requirements,” it said.

Sarom Rho, who leads the Migrant Students United campaign with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the pandemic is an opportunity to ditch the restriction on work hours that advocates have long fought to remove.

Rho said she’s spoken with students in other health-care fields like nursing who are also eager to work more but are hindered by the limit on their hours.

“This kind of unfairness is totally based on status,” Rho said.

“The fact that they are migrants is what is causing the limitation and the restrictions of how they can work, where they can work and when they can work, and how that work will be valued.”

Migrant Students United also wants Ottawa to make work hours done in essential jobs count towards permanent residency applications. Rho said it’s time to consider how work done by people on study permits is valued in Canada.

“Respecting the labour is fundamental,” she said.

Source: International students frustrated by federal work limits during pandemic

The fourth wave of international student mobility

Of note, the possible implications on the relative attractiveness of Canada as a destination given reforms in the UK and expect reforms in the USA by the Biden administration:

International student mobility is shaped by a complex interplay of national contexts, external factors, institutional characteristics and individual preferences. The enormous impact of external factors has shaped the recent patterns of global talent mobility. 

The framework of ‘three waves of international student mobility’ analyses how external events have influenced the choices and preferences of globally mobile students. 

Wave I was shaped by the terrorist attacks of 2001, resulting in the United States losing its attractiveness as a country for international students to alternative destinations such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Wave II was triggered by the global financial recession in 2008 and prompted many US universities to become proactive in recruiting international students. 

A new political order defined wave III in 2016 in the wake of Brexit and the American presidential election. In particular, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies in the US created many perceptual and real barriers for higher education institutions in attracting global talent.

Now, COVID-19 is impacting global higher education systems around the world and erecting new barriers for student mobility. At the same time, the future of the US and the UK visa and immigration policies may become more welcoming compared to the previous four years. This confluence of COVID-19 uncertainty and political reset suggests we are at the beginning of the fourth wave of international mobility. 

The confluence of factors shaping the fourth wave

The pandemic-induced economic uncertainty is reshaping prospective students’ journeys and prompting the consideration of alternatives. 

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council survey of prospective international students considering enrolling in a graduate management programme in 2021, two out of three (71%) were not changing their original plans. 

However, 17% were willing to consider a business school closer to home and 14% were willing to adopt online learning. This data suggests a potential rise in regional mobility and the adoption of online or even blended learning models for a segment of prospective international students. 

In addition, the political landscape in the US is likely to shift perceptions and hence the considerations of prospective international students. A pre-election poll of prospective international students (non-US citizens) suggests that Joe Biden’s election as US president could create a segment of prospective candidates to consider the US more favourably. 

A quarter of respondents (24%) in the poll indicated that they are more likely to pursue graduate management education in the US if Biden is elected president.

In the UK, European Union students who start a new course after August 2021 will no longer be eligible for home fee status. In its efforts to continue to attract global talent, the UK government is creating pathways for education and work with a points-based immigration system. The new system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. 

Specifically, the Graduate Route will allow international students to remain in the UK and work at any skill level for two years after completing their studies. By contrast, in 2012, the UK had eliminated post-study work rights, which hurt its competitiveness as a destination for a segment of international students seeking career opportunities as a part of their motivation to study abroad.

New directions for international student mobility

The visa and immigration policy changes in the US and the UK are likely to become more welcoming over time. This shift is a reversal from what triggered the third wave in 2016. 

Prospective international students may consider these destinations more favourably and, as a result, this may have a ripple effect, intensifying the competition for international student recruitment. 

In sum, COVID-19 uncertainty, coupled with political changes in the US and the UK, suggest the beginning of the fourth wave of international mobility. While COVID-19 is decelerating student mobility, new visa and immigration policies in the top two international student destinations may accelerate mobility towards the US and the UK. 

From prospective students’ perspective, this changing context could influence their preferences and journeys. In this context, it is even more critical for higher education institutions to monitor and track the shifting landscape and double-down on attracting and retaining global talent. 

Dr Rahul Choudaha is a higher education analyst based in the Washington DC area in the United States. He is a director at the Graduate Management Admission Council, an association of leading business schools. As a subject matter expert on mobility trends, student choices and enrolment strategies, Choudaha has delivered over 150 conference presentations and has been quoted over 300 times in global media.


International students waylaid by COVID-19 will get second chance at Canadian work experience

Makes sense:

International students who have failed to secure coveted Canadian job experience due to the pandemic will be given another shot at meeting a necessary requirement for permanent residence, says Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

On Friday, Ottawa will launch a temporary policy to allow international students with an expired or expiring post-graduate work permit to apply for a new permit that will be valid for 18 months.

International students who graduate from a designated Canadian post-secondary college or university are eligible for a work permit that lasts between one and three years, depending on the duration of their academic programs.

Canadian education credentials and work experience have become increasingly crucial for foreign nationals looking to apply for permanent residence in Canada, which rewards those qualifications with bonus points in the immigrant-selection process.

In 2019, more than 58,000 international students who graduated from a Canadian institution successfully applied to immigrate permanently.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 and 2020 cohort was left to confront a grim job market and many international graduates were let go from their employment.

Hence, they found themselves unable to fulfil their Canadian work experience requirement and faced the prospect of having to leave Canada in spite of their investments of money and time.

The tuition fees of international students are generally three to four times above what domestic students pay. The students contribute more than $21 billion annually to the Canadian economy and international education has become a default pathway for immigration to Canada.

“This new policy means that young students from abroad who have studied here, can stay and find work, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow,” Mendicino told the Star in a statement.

“Our message to international students and graduates is simple: We don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

In October, Ottawa announced it would welcome 401,000 new immigrants in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 — after a disappointing 2020 that saw the processing of immigration applications stalled by the pandemic, with overseas visa posts locked down and immigration officers operating from home in a reduced capacity.

Preliminary data has shown that only 60 per cent or some 200,000 of the 340,000 newcomers targeted for 2020 were expected to have made it to Canada by the end of last year.

Mendicino said attracting skilled immigrants is a central part of Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery and the new post-graduate work permit policy will help more graduates fill pressing needs in sectors such as health care and technology.

“Whether as nurses on the pandemic’s front lines, or as founders of some of the most promising start-ups, international students are giving back to communities across Canada as we continue the fight against the pandemic,” Mendicino said.

“Their status may be temporary, but the contributions of international students are lasting.”

Source: International students waylaid by COVID-19 will get second chance at Canadian work experience

Canada must fight to retain talent after Biden enters White House, Macklem says

Good reminder that Canada’s comparative advantage in attracting skilled workers will decrease under the Biden administration:

Canadian governments must be ready to fight a potential brain drain south of the border in the face of a new U.S. administration, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said Tuesday.

Protectionist policies and attitudes stemming from U.S. President Donald Trump have helped make Canada a more attractive landing spot for global talent over the past four years.

But the advantage for international students and workers is likely to disappear as Trump exits the White House next month, Macklem said in a speech to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade

He says being welcoming to newcomers can help boost the economy and increase exports in goods and services needed for a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and that Canadian schools and companies may have to fight harder to attract and retain talent after Joe Biden is sworn in as president.

But Macklem warns that fighting for talent isn’t enough on its own to create a sustainable recovery, noting that governments must also invest in infrastructure and remove internal trade barriers to help exports recover.

He says federal and provincial governments have co-operated often through the pandemic, suggesting it could finally lead to an end on inter-provincial trade hurdles that stymy the movement of goods, services and professionals.

Government infrastructure spending should focus on trade-enhancing infrastructure so exporters know there is a way to easily get their products to market, he said.

Macklem notes he met last month with leaders from several logistics companies who shared their concerns about bottlenecks, particularly at ports.

The recovery so far has seen the country recoup just over 80 per cent of the three million jobs lost during spring shutdowns and output is climbing closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Macklem says much of that rebound is being fueled by household spending, but the country will need to see a rise in exports and business investment if the recovery is to be sustainable.

The path exports take will rest on global forces, Macklem says, including whether international co-operation on vaccines and distribution break through protectionist policies.

“Obviously, we all hope that real life turns out closer to the optimistic scenario than the pessimistic. But hope is not a strategy,” reads the text of Macklem’s speech.

“We need to think strategically to increase the odds of a strong trade recovery.”

The last time Canada climbed out of a recession following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, Macklem was the second-in-command at the central bank.

Even though Canada’s recession was neither as long nor as deep as other countries, domestic exports took a sharper dive. As Macklem noted in his speech, global exports fell less than 20 per cent at the time, while Canadian exports dropped by close to 30 per cent.

The reason was a combination of weak foreign demand, particularly from our biggest trading partner in the United States, Canada’s reliance on the U.S. and other slow-growth markets instead of emerging economies largely, and a lack of competitiveness.

But while the period before that crisis was relatively positive for trade, Macklem says the same can’t be said this time around, pointing to trade disputes started by Trump.

As well, Canada’s trade in services, such as tourism, haven’t recovered as well as goods such as automobiles, even though service exports had been growing faster than goods.

What’s needed is for companies to think about what products are in demand in fast-growing markets, Macklem says. He pointed in his speech to digital services like online education and e-commerce, or applying new technology to traditional sectors.

He also says the export potential for green technology is high given global concerns about climate change.

Source: Canada must fight to retain talent after Biden enters White House, Macklem says

COVID-19 Impact on Immigration: October data

The latest October numbers for Permanent Residents, asylum seekers and study permits (international students). Unfortunately, the data tables for temporary residents have not been updated since August, and citizenship not since June.

Permanent residents

Overall, permanent resident admissions are down by 51.8 percent in October 2020 compared October 2019, and  42.9 percent year to date. Family and refugee categories have declined more than the economic category.

With respect to Provincial Nominee Program, declines have been less in Alberta and British Columbia than other provinces.

Transition from temporary residents to permanent residents account for close to 40 percent of total admissions in 2020 year to date, with the post-graduate work program and the International mobility program being relatively less affected that international students and the temporary foreign worker program (note some double counting between these programs and overlap with the Provincial Nominee Program). 

Asylum claimants have declined dramatically given travel and border restrictions (particularly airport arrivals), from an average of over 5,000 a month in 2019 to an average of less than 1,300 April to October 2020. Inland claims accounted for 56 percent of all claims in 2019, and for 81 percent April to October 2020. 

International students (study permit holders have declined from an average of 35,000 per month in 2019 (with summer seasonal peaks) to 27,000 April to October 2020, with some variation among countries of origin (citizenship) year to date as well as by province of destination.

Enrollment By International Students In U.S. Colleges Plummets

More on the decline of the attractiveness of study in the USA under the Trump administration. Will see over the next few years the degree to which that changes under a Biden administration:

Nikita Chinchwade moved from India to the U.S. last fall to get a master’s degree.

“It had been a dream of mine for a very long time because of the quality of education here,” she says.

The U.S. has historically been a top destination for international students. At last count there were more than a million. They’re attracted by the high-tech facilities and opportunities for research; the easy, nonhierarchical interaction between faculty and students; and the open, social e­nvironment on campuses.

But this year, in a survey of more than 700 colleges and universities, the Institute of International Education found total international enrollment plummeted 16% between fall of 2019 and fall of 2020. Statistics on new international students was even grimmer — a 43% drop. Tens of thousands have deferred enrollment.

“We’ve never had a decrease like that,” said Allan Goodman, who heads the Institute of International Education. But he added that he believes the numbers will go back up once the coronavirus pandemic passes, predicting “surges of students” enrolling. “What we do know is, when pandemics end, there’s tremendous pent-up demand.”

While the pandemic is an obvious reason for the decline, some experts point out that international student enrollment has been declining since 2016.

All this has serious consequences for higher education. To put it simply: These students bring in a lot of money.

Before the pandemic, international students contributed about $44 billion a year to the U.S. economy, says Rachel Banks, senior director for public policy and legislative strategy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, citing an analysis from the 2018-2019 school year. And those students support about half a million jobs.

“They typically pay higher tuition rates than domestic students do,” Banks says. “And in some instances, they’ll even pay more than out-of-state students would. So schools certainly would feel that directly.”

These students contribute more than money, bringing social and cultural diversity to U.S. campuses.

“Everybody is learning from each other. So you want to cast your net as wide as you can,” says Martin McFarlane, director of international student services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The campus has among the highest number of international students of any university in the U.S., more than 10,500.

McFarlane says higher education is all about an exchange of ideas: “We are so interconnected globally that if you are cutting yourself off from that, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”

A Duke University study found that domestic students who engaged with international students enhanced their self-confidence, leadership and quantitative skills. U.S. undergrads were also more likely to “appreciate art [and] literature,” “place current problems in historical perspective” and “read or speak a foreign language.”

The United States has long recognized the long-term benefit to hosting these students in terms of influence and magnifying the country’s diplomatic “soft power.” A recent study shows that the U.S. educated 62 of last year’s world leaders. And research has found that international students develop a trust with their host countries, which also leads to future visits and future business interactions.

About half of international students come to the U.S. to study in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. A 2017 analysis found that foreign nationals, for example, make up 81% of full-time graduate students in electrical engineering, 79% in computer science and 59% in civil engineering.

Alexis Abramson, dean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, worries about having fewer international students in the STEM fields. “We’re all very concerned that the U.S. will lose its competitive edge,” she says. “Engineers and scientists invent things and innovate and solve a lot of the most pressing problems facing our world.”

A recent survey of 500 U.S. university officials found several reasons for fewer international students, including the visa process and high tuition costs as well as the political climate and feeling “unwelcome.” For the first time, a main reason listed was “global competition.” In stark contrast to the U.S. declines over the past few years, the U.K., Canada and Australia have seen enrollment spikes.

Banks of NAFSA isn’t surprised. She says the Trump administration has made it harder to study in the U.S. through its anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Competitor countries, she adds, are stepping in to fill the void, “falling over themselves to say, ‘Look, the United States doesn’t want you, but we do!’ ”

Arvind Ganesh always wanted to study in the United States. He’s 22 and originally from Chennai, India. But when the time came to make a decision for graduate school, he chose Canada. “The education expense is one thing; the cost of living is another,” he explained. The U.S. also has “the problem of security to international students. I’m talking about racial bias.”

Students like Ganesh have contributed to double-digit increases in Canada. It has lower tuition costs, generous work-study policies and clear pathways to permanent residency and citizenship.

The U.K., America’s biggest competitor for international students, is also trying hard to recruit more, with an ambitious goal of 600,000 students by 2030. As part of its Study UK effort, officials have relaxed policies so students can stay and get more work experience after they graduate.

Ganesh starts classes in a month and is excited about making friends and learning about Canada. He’s not too worried about culture shock, saying he has heard Canadians are very friendly. “Even though it’s a very cold country, but you still feel warm when you feel people are welcoming and embracing.”

He says that’s what makes a different country feel like a home away from home.

Source: Enrollment By International Students In U.S. Colleges Plummets

Universities urge Biden to end curbs on foreign students

Not surprising and warranted with respect to the curbs:

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), has written to United States President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on behalf of 43 US university associations calling on them to move to ensure that American colleges and universities are “once again, the destination of choice for the world’s best international students and scholars”.

To accomplish this aim, Mitchell says the Biden administration should move to: 

• Withdraw the proposed regulations that would limit an international student’s ‘duration of status’ and create a fixed duration of admission. Mitchell says there is no evidence to suggest that such a restriction is required or that the issues raised cannot be addressed through the existing Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

“The amount of time the Trump administration proposes to give students is less than the average amount of time it takes an international student to complete his or her education. Such a policy is not fair to international students or institutions,” Mitchell says. 

• Withdraw the interim final rules and the proposed rule that make it harder and more expensive for individuals to receive H-1B visas. These new requirements imposed by both the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security were finalised without allowing for public comment, Mitchell says. 

“The business and higher education communities vigorously oppose the proposed rules, and two lawsuits have already been filed to block them. In addition, the proposed rule regarding subject caps will make it difficult for recent international students graduating from US institutions to participate in the H-1B programme.” 

• Make clear that the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme remains in place as it was at the end of the Obama administration. The Trump administration’s constant signalling that it might change OPT created a serious disincentive for students to enrol in post-secondary education in the United States, Mitchell says. 

Most international students see the OPT programme as a transitional stage to obtaining an H-1B visa. More than 5,000 assistant professors and over 1,700 research associates hold H-1B visas, according to an online visa tracker. The H-1B visa programme is one of the very few pathways for foreign-born researchers to remain in the United States on a long-term basis. 

The demands are among a list of steps that Mitchell says “could and should” be undertaken quickly by the new US administration once it is sworn in in January.

In the open letter, ACE President Mitchell says: “First and foremost, we welcome and applaud the announcement that the Biden administration will move quickly to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections that the Trump administration repealed. 

“We hope that your administration will take steps to make the DACA protections permanent and will work with you to support whatever measures are necessary to accomplish this worthy goal.”

An estimated 450,000 undocumented immigrants are college students and about half of those are eligible for the DACA programme.

In addition to DACA, Mitchell said the associations believe that the Biden administration should take immediate action in a number of areas to terminate, revise or replace a number of decisions that the Trump administration has put in place regarding higher education. 

He called on the Biden administration to work with all stakeholders to address “aspects of the Title IX regulations [the law against sex discrimination in education provision] that are deeply problematic and that micromanage campus processes in an inflexible manner and undermine college and university efforts to effectively, fairly and compassionately address the problem of campus sexual assault”. 

In particular, Mitchell said, the administration “should eliminate the mandate for a live hearing with cross examination, which could have a chilling effect on the willingness of survivors to come forward and raises serious concerns about re-traumatisation”.

Foreign gift reporting requirements

He also demanded a halting of the expanded reporting requirements, including the new Information Collection Request (ICR) and Notice of Interpretation (NOI) on Section 117, which relates to conditions of transparency and reporting of institutions’ foreign gifts or contracts worth US$250,000 or more. 

The higher education associations regard the new interpretation imposed by the Department of Education as part of an effort to expand those reporting requirements beyond existing requirements. The ACE letter says the Higher Education Act prescribes the information that institutions are required to disclose, and, in the absence of a regulation, the Education Department has no authority to impose new requirements beyond those in statute. 

The letter also accuses the Trump administration of launching “politically motivated” investigations of higher education institutions conducted by political appointees. Examples given include investigations launched by the department’s Office of the General Counsel of “racism at Princeton” and “academic freedom at UCLA”.

Mitchell said: “The [Education] Department’s response to instances of insufficient institutional reporting should have focused on reporting remediation to enhance the intended transparency rather than launching investigations that forced institutions to invest scarce resources in responding to burdensome document requests that sought information beyond the statutory authority.”

Limits on the effectiveness of student aid

Mitchell called for the withdrawal of the interim final rules regarding the eligibility of higher education students for funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act. Mitchell said this rule “contradicts congressional intent as to which students should be eligible for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and limits the effectiveness of such aid”.

In order to “enhance the integrity” of student aid programmes, he called on the Biden administration to rewrite the rules to protect the risk to students and taxpayers and ensure that students’ financial aid eligibility is limited to “quality programmes”.

The letter calls for the reinstatement of Obama-era guidance on the use of race in admissions and the immediate termination of the Department of Justice’s “unprecedented demand that Yale University cease any consideration of race in its admissions practices”. 

Mitchell says: “There is no evidence that Yale is in violation of Supreme Court decisions that bear on this issue.”

Similarly, ACE calls on the Department of Justice to withdraw its support for the plaintiffs in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard

“The trial and appellate court decisions, both of which found for Harvard, have established a clear and compelling record that Harvard is in no way violating the law,” Mitchell says.

The letter also calls for the repeal of the Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency and Accountability at Colleges and Universities and the portion of regulations related to that order included in the Education Department’s 23 September 2020 final rule, “Direct Grant Programs, State-Administered Formula Grant Programs…” 

Mitchell said: “Colleges and universities are committed to free inquiry and academic freedom. It is improper for federal officials, including those at the Education Department, to insert their own political judgments about what speech should or should not be permitted on campus. 

“In fact, federal law specifically prohibits the Education Department from interfering in academic matters.”

Mitchell also demanded the repeal of the president’s Executive Order on Race and Sex Stereotyping. “Needless to say, colleges and universities are totally opposed to race and sex stereotyping, but the executive order is sweepingly overbroad and has chilled the implementation of critical diversity training programmes that ensure more respectful and productive work and learning environments,” Mitchell writes.


International recruitment [international students]– The US eagle could soar again

We shall whether there is a quick bounce or some longer-term scarring of the US as an attractive destination:

Just as recent articles have suggested that ‘kangaroos can bounce’ to reflect the potential resurgence as a favoured international student destination of Australia post-pandemic, there is every reason to believe the US eagle can soar under a Biden administration. 

In his acceptance speech as president-elect, Joe Biden said: “For American educators, it’s a great day for you all”, and that must include higher education institutions looking to regain their place as the favoured destination for international students. While there’s new hope and opportunity, it will be important to reflect on recent lessons and the changing world if the recovery is to last.

The good news is that President-Elect Biden was part of the administration that saw international student numbers rise 44.9%, from 623,119 to 903,127, between 2009-10 and 2016-17. A repeat of that performance would see enrolments grow to 1.26 million by 2025 from the 2018 base of 872,000. 

But there are three key steps that need to be taken – building recognition of the economic value of international students, ensuring understanding of the part they play in securing global soft power and getting the basics of visa and post-study work right. 

The creeping malaise of anti-science, alternative facts, reinvention of history and downright lying in recent years should be a sobering wake-up call for institutions. Their connection with the broader population and, perhaps ultimately, their place in society is challenged and nowhere more so than in the US. 

It is time to get serious about integration with communities, better communication, making sure that graduates get jobs and developing the country’s understanding of universities as generators of wealth. 

Economic benefits and soft power

International students contribute US$41 billion to the US economy and support more than 450,000 US jobs, but that story needs telling in the good times rather than waiting for the bad.  

In a 2016 report for NAFSA, Giovanni Peri and Gaetano Bassoestimated that the 10 states with the most international students – which, in addition to New York and California, include heartland states such as Ohio, Illinois and the swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania – stand to gain nearly US$8.3 billion in wages and US$283 million in state taxes. 

There are millions of jobs at stake for all Americans, including those who voted Republican, but the role of universities and their precarious financial future hardly registered on the election landscape.

US universities also need to point out more aggressively the ‘elephant in the room’ that is China. The ability of the US to dominate global economics and build strategic alliances is partly based on the soft power it is able to exercise through having US-educated leaders in government and industry around the world. 

Universities have helped the US into a position of power, but this has been eroded in recent years to the extent that the competition see an opportunity to strike. 

In 2018 Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, was explicit about the country’s ambition. He said: “We are still lagging behind the US on soft power … There are more than 300 world leaders, including presidents, prime ministers and ministers around the globe that graduated from US universities, but only a few foreign leaders that graduated from Chinese universities, so we still need to exercise effort to boost academic exchange and educate more political elites from other countries.” 

China’s long-term goal is to host 500,000 students by 2020 and it had reached 490,000 by 2017. It is currently the third most popular destination of study after the US and the UK and is within striking distance of the latter (it is expected to surpass the UK in the near future). 

The increasing quality of institutions and range of courses, often taught in English, have seen nearly 50% of international students in China now enrolled on degree programmes, including 75,800 graduate students.

Post-study work opportunities

The wider benefits of attracting international students and the way in which they support America’s global influence are two important factors and better communication of these is called for. But this requires long-term campaigns to win the hearts and minds of policy-makers and the public. More immediate benefit can come from simple wins in visa administration, work visas and post-study work opportunities.

Being able to work after completing a degree has been a driver of growth in Australia, Canada and the UK, and Optional Practical Training is an American version that, since 2008, has allowed students a 29-month post-study work period. Critically, the Obama administration expanded the number of eligible fields of study by about 90 to 400 in 2012. The numbers in the programme exploded from 94,919 in 2012-13 to 175,695 by 2016-17. 

While international students may not be at the top of Biden’s priority list and COVID-19 and reducing spiralling unemployment will undoubtedly take priority, one would think that Biden will be quick to relax travel restrictions and issue orders to be far more welcoming to international students, given they contribute US$41 billion to the US economy and support more than 450,000 US jobs.

Other visa priorities include:

• Increasing acceptance for student F1 visa applications. The 2019 student visa refusal rate of 35% is currently continuing to undermine recruitment.

• Rescinding July 2020 guidance issued by immigration authorities which says that foreign students will no longer be able to stay in the country if their courses move fully online in the autumn.

• Rescinding the proposed policy that, if enacted, would limit international student visas for those born in countries associated with high visa overstay rates to either two or four years.

A ‘soaring eagle’ is not good news for the other dominant English-speaking study destinations. The US has always been the preferred destination for most international students who can afford to study there. It’s likely that Australia will remain highly competitive because of its proximity to Asia, the largest market of international students, but Canada and the UK are almost certain to feel the pressure of a resurgent US.

But there is good news all round for students when it comes to making the case for international higher education. The US could join the list of countries with well-ranked universities that are developing increasingly benevolent post-study work regimes, more flexible visa policies and innovative routes to study. 

They will also find smart institutions providing evidence of the return on investment for the degree by giving data-backed evidence of graduate career outcomes, both in country and for those returning home.

Louise Nicol is director of the Asia Careers Group. This piece forms part of a series in University World News, which last month featured “Canada, the squeezed middle”, which was preceded by “Australia, the comeback kid”. Within each article, Asia Careers Group aims to provide insight on the prospects for the world’s four largest destinations for inbound international students. Later this month we will be looking to the future of international higher education in the UK post-Brexit.


Immigration committee study highlighting coronavirus impact on Canadian immigrants

Will be interesting to follow, particularly with respect to backlogs and processing (hopefully citizenship as well):

Separated family members, approved permanent residents unable to travel to Canada, and others are speaking up in the House of Commons as witnesses in a study on Canadian immigration.

Canada’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is conducting a study that will examine the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian immigration system over the course of no more than eight sessions. Once the study is complete, the committee will report its findings to the House. The government then has 120 days to table a comprehensive response, however, they are not obligated to make any change in policy.

This particular study will look into the following issues relevant to the coronavirus impact on Canadian immigration:

  • Application backlogs and processing times for the different streams of family reunification and the barriers preventing the timely reunification of loved ones, such as denials of Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) because of section 179(b) of the Immigration and Refugees Protection Regulations, and the ongoing closures of Visa Application Centres;
  • Examine the government’s decision to reintroduce a lottery system for the reunification of parents and grandparents; to compare it to previous iterations of application processes for this stream of family reunification, including a review of processing time and the criteria required for the successful sponsorship;
  • TRV processing delays faced by international students in securing TRVs, particularly in francophone Africa, authorization to travel to Canada by individuals with an expired confirmation of permanent residency, use of expired security, medical, and background checks for permanent immigration.

While House is in session, the committee is meeting at 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. The next meetings are scheduled for November 16, and 18. Immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, has been invited to appear before the committee on November 25 and December 2.

How travel restrictions are affecting immigrants’ mental health

Among other early findings, the mental health of immigrants and their Canadian family members was examined in two scenarios relating to family separation.

Faces of Advocacy is a grassroots organization established to reunite families in Canada during COVID-19 travel restrictions. They say they are directly responsible for the exemption on extended family members, which was announced on October 2.

The group indexed the mental health of 1,200 members at the end of August. They used validated mental health rating scales for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress in civilians. The results are not diagnostic, but offer a glimpse into the mental health effects that have resulted from travel restrictions.

Despite 49 per cent of respondents reporting they have never been diagnosed with mental illness, just over 69 per cent would screen positive for symptoms of clinical depression. In addition, 16 per cent of respondents had a history of self harm or suicidal thoughts prior to the travel restrictions, but after family separation this nearly doubled to 30 per cent.

Spousal Sponsorship Advocates was established during the pandemic. It is as another grassroots movement, created to advocate for the accelerated reunification of families with ongoing spousal sponsorship applications in Canada.

Their survey took a mental health snapshot of 548 respondents, who had been separated from family for months or even years at a time. Of these, a reported:

  • 18 per cent have suicidal thoughts;
  • 22 per cent had to stop working;
  • 70 per cent have anxiety and 44 per cent generalized anxiety;
  • 35 per cent started having panic attacks;
  • 78 per cent have periods of severe depression;
  • 76 per cent have severe energy loss;
  • 57 per cent now have physical pain;
  • 52 per cent gained or lost weight abnormally;
  • 85 per cent have sleep problems.

The mental state of expired confirmation of permanent residence, or COPR, holders was also mentioned. These are people who were approved for permanent residence, but were not able to travel to Canada before their documents expired. As a result, many are unable to come to Canada without an authorization letter from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, and they have already upended their lives in their home country. The evidence includes a series of tweets that are intended to show the “pains, agony, [and] mental torture” experienced by COPR holders.

Source: Immigration committee study highlighting coronavirus impact on Canadian immigrants