Source: Toronto Star
36% of the children of immigrants held university degrees in Canada.
Source: Toronto Star
36% of the children of immigrants held university degrees in Canada.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Tenfold increase in recent budget wins plaudits from cash-poor universities
The Canadian government is hoping to corner the market on foreign students by making a significant investment into Canada’s education brand.
The recently tabled federal budget directs $10 million over the next two years to the effort – a large increase from the funding it set aside for marketing education from 2007 to 2012, when it budgeted $1 million each year.
Efforts will focus on strengthening the “Imagine Education au/in Canada” brand, a program that aims to promote the high quality of a Canadian education to international students.
Foreign Affairs spokesman John Babcock said the extra funding is a “very positive signal,” and that the federal government will continue cooperating with the provinces to strengthen the international education strategy.
Canada is already a top destination for foreign students. According to the budget, some 239,000 students in 2010 contributed $8 billion to the economy, making them a rich vein for colleges and universities to tap.
The University of British Columbia, for instance, has almost 4,000 students from 120 different countries. Foreign students’ tuition is, on average, five times higher than what Canadian students pay.
“It’s a lot more than about economics,” said UBC president Stephen Toope. “They really bring a richness to the educational experience that all Canadian students benefit from.”
Jennifer Humphries, vice-president of membership, public policy and communications for the Canadian Bureau for International Education, said the Canadian education strategy to attract these students has several facets.
“The brand is all the things Canada does,” said Humphries, adding that immigration regulations, tourism campaigns, the schools themselves and even the Vancouver Winter Olympics are all a part of the marketing effort.
“I still think, and the government seems to agree with us, there needs to be more investment and more work on establishing a brand, because we aren’t where we need to be,” she said.
The budget also included $13 million for Mitacs Globalink, a Vancouver-based program that matches international research students with schools.
“We’re unique in being able to make sure that students are being put into labs that will be really interesting to them,” said Arvind Gupta, CEO of Mitacs Globalink. “They know that when they come to us that we will have a good project for them.”
The Imagine Education campaign has only been around a short time, so it remains to be seen how it affects recruitment.
The Harper government boasts that foreign students brought $8-billion into the Canadian economy in 2010. When you consider what’s at stake, and the federal government’s goal to double the international student intake by 2022, it borders on the absurd to think that in promoting Canadian education abroad, the Canadian government is short of funds to serve a glass of water.
Such is the way Canada frequently presents itself as an international student recruiter.
This was on display recently when the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade held a major Canadian education promotion event in Lagos, Nigeria, in January.
In a venue where the air conditioning is hit and miss, it not only wouldn’t provide any food for the university and college representatives who paid thousands of dollars and came all the way from Canada – it said it couldn’t even provide water. It was deemed to be “not in the budget” by DFAIT officials in Nigeria to offer to the parched representatives.
“Put it in the feedback form,” was the best advice and the closest thing offered as relief by junior staffers in Lagos, according to one of my colleagues who attended.
Is a glass of water really a big deal?
It is a canary-in the-coal-mine example of how far Canada has to go to achieve the kind of brand consistency and recognition that befits the magnitude of the opportunity Canada has before it.
When the British Council blows through town promoting Education UK, you know it – advertisements, aggressive school outreach programs, and first-class event venues proclaiming ‘brand Britannia.’
The U.S. State Department regularly sponsors significant cultural and other outreach programs to raise the profile of American culture and education in countries around the globe – often bringing in top artistic and academic talent to work with local high school students.
Juxtapose the February 2013 DFAIT press release trumpeting the success of International Trade Minister Edward Fast’s trade mission to Africa. The minister crossed paths with the Canadian education events on at least one occasion in Nigeria, yet made absolutely no mention of the education outreach events at all. This is the norm for how poorly Canada coordinates its efforts. When we consider that Canada spends a tiny fraction of what its competitors do on promotions, making the most out of a little is critical.
Canada has an excellent global brand, but fails to take advantage of this by attracting enough quality students to its world-class public universities (most of Canada’s recent self-proclaimed foreign-student recruitment success is a result of mediocre students filling classrooms in colleges or in foundation pre-university programs).
Canada’s international student recruitment is akin to Apple computers circa 1990 – a superior product but inferior marketing and hence a miniscule market share (if only Canada had a Steve Jobs to market the Maple Leaf abroad!)
Some relief could be in sight: Last week’s federal budget did pledge additional funds to recruiting international students. Yet the 2011 budget made a similar pledge – of $10-million spread over two years – and there was little evidence of this spending visible abroad. And these funds are miniscule compared to those being spent by our competitors, especially Britain and the United States.
If the doubling of international student numbers is achieved in Canada by 2022, it means an estimated $18-billion contribution to the Canadian economy in that year alone. That’s a big-picture, big-ideas scenario, not one allowing room for the sort of execution that does not provide a glass of water to its participants.
Yet that moment was not an exception. One weekend this winter, when Canada was holding another such no-frills education fair in Nairobi, Kenya, the U.S. State Department flew in top Broadway performers hold a glamorous concert, featuring Academy and Grammy award winners spending the better part of a week working with local high-school musical talents and spreading word about their EducationUSA brand.
Americans have been hugely successful in international student recruitment for generations – and, no doubt, they had plenty of water available during their performance.
Mel Broitman is managing director of the Canadian University Application Centre and the editor of Overseas, Overwhelmed, where this article first appeared
By Goldy Hyder
Canadian business and political leaders are at last waking up to the importance of India. But they need to be aware that Indian attitudes toward Canada are changing too.
The Harper government has committed itself to an important goal: to complete negotiations on a free trade agreement with India by the end of 2013. Given the scope and complexity of the proposed agreement, which could include provisions related to federal and subfederal procurements, it is an ambitious and aggressive undertaking — yet it is absolutely vital to Canada’s continued economic prosperity. By the government’s own estimates, a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with India has the potential to triple bilateral trade from $5 billion to $15 billion as soon as 2015. If the full potential of the agreement is achieved, some observers contend, Canada’s GDP could in-crease by $6 billion, creating as many as 40,000 new jobs. At a minimum, a trade deal would provide Canadian business-es with a massive competitive advantage: preferential access to more than 1.2 billion consumers.
Curiously, despite ample evidence and intertwined national histories, Canadians have been among the last to fully acknowledge and join the West in a renewed interest in India. Western interest in India had lapsed after centuries of cultivating trading ties with the Indian subcontinent (after all, European settlement of North America was an unexpected outcome of Christopher Columbus’ expedition to find a better route to Asia). Canada’s bilateral relationship with India has languished due to a number of factors, including what some might describe as benign neglect.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not appear to need convincing that this trend must be reversed. In his recent speech to the World Economic Forum in New Delhi, the Prime Minister correctly noted that India is “a place where globally important decisions are increasingly being made.” But Canadian awareness of the shifting economic opportunities must also be matched with an evolution in attitudes toward India.
Fairly or unfairly, many in India still perceive Canada’s attitude as having colonial undertones, that there is an implied sense that “we are here to help.” Although India clearly has issues with income inequality and poverty, the perception of paternalism undermines our ability to foster stronger ties with Indian business.
Canada and India both have long legacies as nations of traders. But because so much of Canada’s trade has been with Europe and the United States, we have not developed the adaptability in our business culture that will be necessary for us to excel in the new markets that are so crucial to future growth. Despite being a diverse and tolerant multi-cultural society at home, we are often rigid and inflexible when it comes to our business dealings abroad.
I have often heard international clients and business contacts praise individual Canadian business people for being far more respectful of cultural differences than their American and European counterparts. And yet there is an overall sense among Indian businesses that Canadian companies try too hard to impose their own way of doing business when abroad. It is absolutely crucial that we bridge this gap without, of course, compromising core Canadian values.
Equally damaging is the perception that all levels of Canadian government and many companies lack the essential commitment to the long haul when it comes to building business relationships in India. There is a troubling view that we are there for the weekend or, worse, that we only visit India when we are “in the neighbourhood” having real negotiations with the Chinese. (Just think how we feel when international visitors tack on a token visit to Canada after travel-ling to the United States.)
I cannot stress enough how much India’s attitudes toward Canada and the West have changed in recent years. Indians are properly taking immense pride in the explosion of new opportunities in their country, and they are understandably demanding that they be treated as the peers and equals they clearly are. A failure to recognize and respect these changes will jeopardize our ability to seize the opportunities.
I have had an inside perspective on the evolution of Canada’s relationship with India. My family and I frequently travel back to India, and for many years we were often asked by friends and family about opportunities in Canada. During recent visits, however, those inquiries have been replaced by questions about when we will be moving back to India. The old adage “go West, young man” has been replaced with a steady chorus of “go East.”
There are encouraging signs that Canadian governments and business leaders are addressing our perceived shortcomings. Since 2006, there have been 24 visits by Canadian cabinet ministers to India, and the Prime Minister visited in 2009 and 2012. Moreover, we now have a High Com-missioner to India, Stewart Beck, who comes from the international trade side of the Department of Foreign Affairs, suggesting there is more of a focus on the business side of the relationship. Over 500 Canadian companies now have sustained operations and investments in India, and several hundred more are developing plans to do so. The Canada-India CEO Forum, led by Hari Bhartia and Tom Jenkins, has been established as a vehicle to promote and establish in-creased trade and investment ties between our two countries.
These steps reflect the type of dedicated, focused and sustained effort that Canada needs to undertake if it is serious about building stronger ties with India. But there is still more we can and must do if we are to succeed. We are only one of many suitors seeking to woo (and wow) Indians. And given the relative size of our population and economy, we are one of the smaller suitors seeking to rekindle a relationship.
The 2011 Indian census reveals there are 46 cities in India that have populations greater than 1 million people, not including urban agglomerations or “greater areas.” Canada has 3 cities of this size. More than 1 million Canadians of Indian origin live in Canada — effectively 3 percent of our population. By contrast, Canada’s total population is less than 3 percent of India’s.
Canada is therefore in fierce competition for India’s attention with much larger countries, including most of the major European economies as well as the United States. Overcoming that size disadvantage requires finding ways to emphasize other strengths. Australia, a country of a size comparable to Canada, has a strategic advantage due to its geographic proximity to Asia. Canada has advantages too, but to date we have not been able to effectively leverage them. One group that could lead the way is Canadians of Indian origin, who have not linked back effectively to the community in India. It is a strategic advantage that Canada must leverage better.
It is often said that where you stand on a given issue will depend on where you sit — so it is perhaps not surprising that I, the president of a large public relations consultancy, see the problem in the context of brand management. As odd as it might sound, in India Canada’s “brand” is not one of the most recognized. Conceptually, therefore, we need to base our efforts in the Indian — and wider Asian — markets on a strategy to enhance and improve “Brand Canada.”
As with any branding exercise, the key to a successful campaign is identifying and isolating your core strengths and communicating them effectively to your target audience. It is not so much an exercise in conveying how we see ourselves and want the world to see us, as it is one of highlighting those aspects of our country that are most attractive to those we want to attract. To that end, we need to better understand our target audience.
A 2012 Ipsos Reid report on the effectiveness of efforts to increase the number of international students attending Canadian colleges and universities found that Canada was not a “top-of-mind destination” for prospective students in India or China. The report stated, in part, that Canada’s work in this area was insufficiently detailed when it came to highlighting Canada’s advantages relative to those of the United States and the United Kingdom.
The report recommended that future marketing and advertising campaigns should more clearly articulate factors such as the quality of our educational institutions, our liberal immigration policies, our strong and distinct culture, as well as Canada’s record of innovation and research. More specifically, it recommended the development of a “clear national brand” — something that both the United States and the United Kingdom already have and exploit.
Given the undisputable links between higher education and economic growth, the broader lesson here is that promoting Canada’s cultural distinctiveness is crucial to strengthening our global brand. Foreign Minister John Baird has spoken passionately and persuasively about the need to promote Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as part of our efforts to promote Canada’s economic interests.
In contrast to some of the other large and emerging economies in Asia, India shares Canada’s strong commitment to all four of these core values. We also share similar banking and legal regimes, as well as other legacies of the former British Empire. We have a vested economic interest in highlighting the elements we share with India as well as what differentiates us from the other Western countries vying for its attention.
Prime Minister Harper has compared the Canada-India trade reationship to the plot of a Bollywood movie, in which the hero competes for the beautiful heroine in a crowded field of suitors. It is clear who the love interest is in the relationship. The question is whether Canada can present itself as being attractive enough to win the girl, in a world full of suitors.