Researchers pinpoint gaps and offer recommendations to enhance the international student experience
At a meeting co-hosted by the City of Brampton and Sheridan College this week, members of the Improving International Postsecondary Student Experience Roundtable unanimously endorsed a literature review that highlights international students’ experiences and recommendations for action to improve their quality of life in Canada.
Dr. Amira El Masri, Director, Global Education and Internationalization at Sheridan College, and research assistant Noah Khan reviewed 129 works to complete the report. They examined themes of the lived experience of this student population and what has been proposed to address the challenges they face before arriving in Canada, during their postsecondary studies, and through their transition to the Canadian labour market. While academic literature comprises the bulk of the review, government data and published news stories were used to capture Brampton and Peel-specific experiences.
The literature review can be accessed by visiting Sheridan’s institutional repository of scholarly and creative works.
- Government policy positions international education as a pipeline to immigration resulting in a steady increase of students since the mid-2000s, with Ontario being the largest beneficiary.
- Many students embark on this journey as a pathway to a post-graduate work permit and permanent residency with colleges receiving much of the enrolment as their programs are strongly tied to labour markets.
- Peel Region is home to 80 postsecondary campuses that are considered Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) that can enrol international learners, however only 13 of these DLIs offer programs that enable international students to be eligible for a post-graduate work permit.
- Little or no data is publicly available about the practices and enrolments of private career colleges.
- Many international students face issues of affordability and possible exploitation by multiple actors and they may lack understanding of their rights and responsibilities.
Based on these findings, a key recommendation of the report is increased collaboration between all community stakeholders who touch the lives of international students along their journey, from pre-arrival to Canadian citizenship.
To achieve this, stakeholders must improve information sharing and create a more seamless support structure to reduce gaps and redundancies.
Support services must also be specific and relevant to all stages of the students’ journey, not just the earliest stages where they are currently concentrated. A more holistic approach to resources would also support housing and immigration, as well as students’ financial, social and emotional well-being. The report noted a specific gap in service that arises after international students graduate but before they have attained permanent residency, resulting in a lack of access to health insurance and settlement services.
Finally, to create the right environment for success, the study notes the need to change the narrative that currently paints international students as competitors, not contributors.
Following the final roundtable meeting and town hall, a Summit will be held this spring that seeks to establish a framework of action to support the international student body. Key measures of success will also be identified so that all contributors can track their progress and commit to continuous improvement and change.
Details about the town hall and summit will be shared publicly as they are finalized.
Our work will continue to unfold through monthly meetings of the Roundtable and a town hall event designed to solicit broad input from public and private postsecondary institutions and their learners, community agencies, elected officials, advocates, employers, landlords, government staff and service providers. We recognize that so many people and organizations need to be part of the solution.
- Gurpreet Malhotra, CEO, Indus Community Services and Roundtable Co-Chair
This report outlines the realities of international students’ experiences and how we can better support them as members of the community. With this deeper understanding, we can take collective action with our partnering agencies to provide culturally relevant, meaningful solutions and move towards our shared goal of making Peel Region a leader for the international student experience.
- Bill Boyes, Fire Chief, City of Brampton and Roundtable Co-Chair
International students enrich the culture and vibrancy of our communities. They speak multiple languages, enable cross-cultural experiences, bring diverse perspectives and opinions to our attention, and help to break harmful stereotypes and bias. They’re incredibly resilient and can teach us so much. That’s why it’s up to all of us to build a welcoming atmosphere to help them flourish.
- Dr. Amira El Masri, Director Global Education and Internationalization, Sheridan College
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