Montreal: Overseas enrolment crucial for universities - and city

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Nov 15 13:28:00 UTC 2006

 Wednesday  November 15  2006

Overseas enrolment crucial for universities - and city


Bring on the scholarships, slash the red tape, and do something about
those awful winters. At a news conference yesterday, a coalition led by
the Conference regionale des elus de Montreal, a think-tank of local
government and business leaders, called for broad changes aimed at making
Montreal a more desirable destination, a place where the best young minds
in the world not only want to study, but stay and set down roots.
Recommendations for recruiting and retaining foreign students range from
welcoming newcomers at the airport to making it easier to get work visas
and allowing universities to keep extra money collected from differential

Only one hints at the elephant in the room, suggesting universities help
foreign students learn both English and French, develop inter-campus
alliances and allow foreigners to study in the official language of their
choice. With more than 160,000 students enrolled in four universities and
four specialized institutions, Montreal ranks second only to Boston in
North America when it comes to university students per capita. The city's
17,000 international and out-of-province students pump an estimated $250
million to $400 million into the economy each year. But in the
increasingly cutthroat global competition for brain power, Canadian
schools lag well behind those in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and

And Montreal has the lowest growth rate in educated immigrants of Canada's
five largest cities. One-third of out-of-province students leave once they
graduate. That could have long-term implications. While Montreal schools
invest in new business towers and science pavilions, they face the
prospect of a much smaller pool of homegrown students to fill those
classrooms. In a report published last year, the Montreal Metropolitan
Board of Trade said that within 10 years, the growth of Montreal's
workforce will depend on immigration. The study said Montreal doesn't fare
much worse than other large Canadian cities in keeping university-trained
and skilled workers.  We do find it harder to entice them to give us a

So what do those places have that we don't? Is it really our bureaucracy?
Or is it that in a world that is increasingly English, international
students gravitate to where they think they will be able to speak it and
live it? The handful of foreign students who attended yesterday's news
conference said they've enjoyed their time here, and appreciate the
culture, diversity and standard of living. Yet none were certain they'll
stay after graduation, citing everything from the high cost of master's
programs for foreigners to better job opportunities elsewhere. Their
comments echoed findings of a CROP poll for Montreal International, which
cited high taxation, bureaucracy, Quebec's language policy, political
harangues and climate. Given recent scary forecasts on global warming,
changing the weather may be easier than tackling language, red tape and

pcurran at

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