Nova Scotia has launched two initiatives aiming to entice international student to stay, work and possibly immigrate after they graduate, in order to shore up the province’s ageing and shrinking workforce.
A new pilot program announced by the Nova Scotia Government to keep international students in the province is a “very encouraging” step, yet it does not fully address the barriers most commonly faced by these students, says the Canadian Federation of Students for Nova Scotia. The government pilot in question aims to support 50 international students who are completing their final year of PSE in “priority areas” such as health care, computer engineering, and ocean sciences. These supports includes career mentoring, access to employment-related events, and workshops. Yet the CFS-NS says that these efforts do not address the issues of “differential fees” paid by international students, and access to medical services insurance coverage. “What we really need is broader action that will help international students studying in Nova Scotia across the board,” said CFS-NS Chairperson Charlotte Kiddell.
A recent change to international student visa requirements has caused concern among Nova Scotia’s English language schools, reports CBC. Introduced in July, the new legislative changes require international students in Canada to obtain a second visa before moving from secondary to postsecondary school. “What happened before the changes is students could apply for language training and university training and receive one study permit to cover the whole of the time that they were going to be in Canada,” says Sheila Nunn, president of East Coast School of Languages in Halifax. “This gave them the confidence that they knew that they would go on to the university, they didn’t have to apply for any other paperwork.” Nunn adds that the new regulations might jeopardize pathways programs currently established at NS universities.
Mount Saint Vincent University has partnered with Venor in an effort to help international student graduates find employers and opportunities to start their careers in Nova Scotia. The partnership marks the latest step in the Nova Scotia Scholars Program, which provides personalized career plans that include career building, networking, work experience, and immigration support for participants. “The Mount is committed to assisting international students who choose to remain in the province,” said Paula Barry Mercer, Associate Vice President of Student Experience at MSVU. “Keeping more graduates in Nova Scotia is an important step in helping to ensure the future prosperity of our province.”
Nova Scotia has introduced a new immigration stream that will help skilled applicants who have been working in the province for at least a year settle there permanently. “What we’ve heard from the universities and the colleges and the business community is that [workers] are falling through the cracks. They had jobs but [companies] couldn’t nominate them through the federal stream,” said NS Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab. It is hoped that the new express stream will encourage employers to target more international student graduates for hiring.
Cape Breton University has released a new report that addresses issues around immigration to Cape Breton. The report recommends taking action to improve permanent settlement and to enhance community support for immigration. It identifies a need to focus on potential immigrants and international students as potentially key contributors to Cape Breton’s work force, particularly given that many local business are dealing with labour shortages and succession issues. The report recommends that steps be taken to convince Cape Breton communities of the benefits of immigration and to make changes at the federal level to provide more support for settlement in rural Nova Scotia.
Cape Breton University’s student union, faculty association, and administration have banded together to campaign for free university tuition. In a recent post on Academica’s Rethinking Higher Ed Forum, CBU President David Wheeler called on provincial and federal politicians to take action against rising tuition fees and student debt levels, proposing that “the most elegant solution… would be the removal of student tuition altogether, funded by a system of progressive taxation at the federal level, and backed by needs-based living expense grants at the provincial level.” Now Wheeler, CBU’s faculty association, and CBU’s student union have created a website urging other universities to join the cause. The site also includes an open letter to federal politicians asking them to initiate a national debate on free tuition. “It is a federal election year, and we do believe that this topic merits attention by our federal leaders,” said Wheeler.
Cape Breton University has launched the Rural-Urban Immigration Pilot for Cape Breton Island, an initiative designed to increase immigration to the island. The project involves the creation of a task force consisting of members of various PSE institutions, municipal organizations, and private industry that will assess current needs and issues around immigration to Cape Breton. In addition, current international students in the area will be surveyed for their perspectives, and community-based research projects will help determine best practices and next steps. The initiative will conclude in the spring with a comprehensive report and strategic plan. “We have an opportunity to learn from international students studying in the area, to understand their challenges, identify opportunities, and eventually make changes that will make Cape Breton a desirable location to reside. This report will help the Island in many ways and will also be of interest to other rural and urban areas in the Province,” said Keith Brown, VP International and Aboriginal Affairs.
The Nova Scotia government has announced a new initiative designed to recruit doctors to underserved communities in the province. The incentive program offers to repay the cost of tuition for medical school, up to $120,000, in exchange for a 5-year commitment to practise in an underserved community. The program is open to 25 medical students in residency, or doctors from outside the province who have practised for less than 7 years, over the next 4 years. The program is the main recommendation of the Physician Recruitment and Retention Action Team, an expert panel set up to identify ways to recruit and retain doctors. “Not only will this program represent a first step in assisting new and recent graduates repay student debt, it will have a positive impact on the health of Nova Scotians by placing physicians in underserviced areas of the province,” said Russell Christie, President of Dalhousie Medical Students Society.
Nova Scotia is launching a new round of public consultations into the role of universities in the province. The government will reach out to students, faculty, campus staff, university Presidents, businesses, and the international community to collect ideas on how universities can help improve the provincial economy and keep young people in NS. “Nova Scotia universities are among the top in the country in terms of bringing in international students. So we’re at the forefront of that, but it’s to make sure that there’s a good alignment between the needs of the province and what universities are providing,” said Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Kelly Regan. Among the issues to be considered in the consultation process is how to make higher education more affordable for students. The latest round of consultations follows a report submitted to the province 4 years ago by economist Tim O’Neill, who recommended tying operating grants to population growth, government spending growth, or GDP, as well as exploring mergers, private-public partnerships, and tuition increases. The sessions are expected to lead to the release of a “vision paper” in early 2015.
At his installation ceremony on Friday, Kent MacDonald identified 3 priorities for his time as President of St Francis Xavier University. First, MacDonald announced a recommitment to StFX’s academic mission, pledging to add $1 M to the research budget for faculty and student researchers. MacDonald also announced his intention to expand StFX’s global reach through the development of a comprehensive international strategy. He further committed to increasing the number of international students on campus to 10% of all students. MacDonald also said that he aims to increase StFX’s total enrolment to 5,000 students. Finally, MacDonald announced that he intends to raise $25 M over the next 5 years through the Xavieran Legacy Fund to improve accessibility and offer educational opportunities to “the most talented students, regardless of background.”
Dalhousie University has launched a pilot program to help international students establish themselves in Nova Scotia’s workplaces. “We’ve noticed that many [international students] are having to go back to their home countries to do their work terms in order to stay on track… and graduate with our [commerce] program,” said Anna Cranston, Director of Management Career Services at Dal. The new workplace experience program helps international students establish contacts and build their confidence in the Canadian workplace. Students and employers alike learn more about cultural differences as well as the challenges faced by international students looking to join the Canadian workforce. “It’s only a small way but if there’s a way that we can find to make international students feel more comfortable in the workplace and out getting jobs, then maybe there’s a chance that they’re going to stay when they graduate,” said Robert Everist, Chief Operating Officer for Cox & Palmer, a firm that hosted a student this summer. NS recently created pathways to encourage international students to stay in the province post-graduation.
Nova Scotia has made changes to its Provincial Nominee Program that are designed to make it easier for international students to immigrate to the province. As of June 6, international graduates who have a job offer in-hand from a NS employer will be able to apply for permanent residency through the program’s Skilled Worker stream. It is hoped that the changes will help NS retain skilled workers as well as help the province’s PSE institutions attract more international students. “International graduates are educated, they’ve made friends, they know the language, and they’re already familiar with all the great things Nova Scotia has to offer. Over the past year, there hasn’t been a provincial door open to help them stay. Today, that changes,” said NS Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab. Demand for university education in the maritime provinces has been decreasing, and NS and the federal government have made attracting international students a priority.
TCS Insights: Students looking to pursue higher education in Canada now have increased incentive to do so in Nova Scotia. If students can earn an offer of employment when their academic experience concludes will be able to attain permanent resident status sooner. This will benefits students looking to continue their lives in Nova Scotia as well as the province itself.
Nova Scotia has announced $5 million in funding for 9 new projects at its universities. This round of Excellence and Innovation Fund-supported projects focuses on reaching international and aboriginal students, simplifying application procedures, and promoting innovation in the province. Cape Breton University will work with Unama’ki College to improve educational accessibility for aboriginal learners, while CBU, Saint Mary’s University, and Acadia University will study ways to offer local academic programs in Zhuhai, China. At the University of King’s College, the funding will support a pilot project to recruit and retain students from the United States; Mount Saint Vincent University, meanwhile, will devote money to enhancing its International Education Centre. The funding will also support 4 “sandbox” projects that will offer spaces for students and industry to develop ideas that have the potential to grow into business opportunities.
The Nova Scotia government has announced it will eliminate the interest on provincial student loans, beginning with qualifying borrowers who entered repayment on or after November 1, 2007. These borrowers won’t be reimbursed for interest they’ve paid since that date, but they will no longer pay interest going forward. There are roughly 18,000 borrowers who could be eligible to benefit annually, says an NS news release. The average NS student loan is about $5,600; eliminating the interest would save about $800 over the lifetime of the loan. NS has committed $1.6 million annually to fund the move. StudentsNS welcomed the announcement, but said that NS should take further strides to support students by following the example set by Newfoundland and Labrador; NL announced last week that it would replace all student loans with non-repayable grants.
TCS Insights: Much like the example set by Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia is making higher education more affordable to post-secondary students. Any student, domestic or international, will be able achieve academic success in the province with less economic stress than in recent history.
A report released this week by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) reveals that 70,433 students were enrolled in Maritime universities in 2012-13. While the overall number of students remains steady compared to the year before, the last 10 years have seen the number of Maritimers enrolled decrease by 12%. Over the same time period, the number of Canadians from outside the Maritimes enrolled has increased by 28%, and the number of international students has doubled, shows the report. In PEI, the number of undergraduate students enrolled has increased by 20% over 10 years, but fell by 2.5% over the past year. Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia the number of undergraduate students increased by 4% over 10 years, and 1% over one year; in New Brunswick, the number of undergraduate students decreased by 12% over 10 years, and 1% over one year.
TCS Insights: The amount of international students choosing to study in the Maritimes is on the rise. Specifically, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have witnessed overall enrolment numbers rise over the last decade while New Brunswick has made improvements when compared to years prior.
A survey by the Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Education Coalition says that 71% of Nova Scotians who make between $40,000 and $70,000 a year would pay higher taxes if they knew the money went towards lowering university and college tuition. The poll, which surveyed 800 people in December, also reveals that more Nova Scotians say they were concerned about PSE and health care (at 65%) than taxation (64%) or crime (39%). According to Metro News, the coalition—which is comprised of NS student, faculty and public employee associations—plans to meet with Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan to advocate for a 15% tuition decrease at NS universities and colleges. The poll has a margin of error of 3%, 19 times out of 20.
TCS Insights: This research demonstrates the dedication that those in Nova Scotia have to making an affordable higher education possible. Such commitment to providing students with better opportunities helps the province stand out as an educational destination in Canada.