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February 24, 2014

Canada Overhauls Icy Image to Woo World’s Students

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The government of Canada has a message for people in other countries who might consider coming to its universities to study: “It’s not all snow and ice here!”

At least, that’s one of the messages that Canada is sending out on websites and social media and in other types of marketing in its relentless bid to capture a bigger share of the increasingly competitive international student market.

Later to the game than many other countries, Canada is a case study illustrating the reasons and the means by which governments are working to lure foreign students – especially from high-growth countries such as China, India and Brazil – and the obstacles to succeeding.

Now, more than a year after a report by Ipsos Reid, the Canadian arm of the international polling company, found that a five-year, multimillion-dollar campaign called “Imagine Education au/in Canada” had failed to make inroads in those countries, the government has significantly expanded its efforts.

“It’s almost becoming a cliché to say it, but the world is getting smaller, so the competition is growing,” says Sean Simpson, vice-president in Ipsos Reid’s Toronto office.

The number of post-secondary students enrolled abroad worldwide has doubled since 2000, to about 4.5 million, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and is projected to grow to 6.4 million by 2025.

A new international education strategy, announced in January, will spend C$5 million (£2.8 million) a year to brand and market Canada as an education destination to some of these prospective students in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam, plus C$13 million over two years to promote research and training links. The materials will be customised to each market.

Those are places with which the Canadian government has been aggressively seeking closer trade and investment ties, and attracting international students from them is seen as a crucial way to help.

Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, has visited Asia to work on strengthening economic connections, while in 2012, David Johnston, the governor general, took 30 Canadian university presidents to Brazil to promote Canadian higher education and research agreements.

Click here to read the full article by Jon Marcus in Times Higher Education.

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