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Our universities play a major immigration role.

['Did You Know That with Alan Walter']
['Did You Know That with Alan Walter']

Did You Know with Alan Walter

Can you believe the success Cape Breton University is having recruiting international students? This past year it literally doubled its student population with the addition of almost 2,000 international students in September, with around 800 from India and 500 from China; and a few more from other countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt and Sri Lanka.

Gordon MacInnis, CBU vice-president of finance, said enrolment is set to grow again at the start of the new semester this January - "I think the growth numbers are manageable. I think there's a lot of potential that CBU has, not just for the university, but for the community at large."

And this growth trend is not limited to CBU. Nova Scotia's two largest post-secondary institutions — Saint Mary's and Dalhousie — now have international student populations of 32 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. – with CBU now running at over 55 per cent; truly remarkable numbers.

And tuition for international students is roughly double what Canadians pay, which is a boost to university revenues, and puts no strain on our local economy.

Peter Halpin, executive director of the Atlantic Association of Universities, said international students are attracted to Canadian universities because of the quality of instruction, but also by non-academic considerations.

"One of the key attributes today is students want to know that they're going to a tolerant, non-discriminatory, warm and welcoming community, where they're going to be embraced and not rejected, and Canada offers that," he said.

While retaining international students in the Atlantic provinces following graduation can be more of a challenge than in other parts of the country, a federal “Study and Stay” program that currently helps international students stay to work in Nova Scotia is making a difference and will be adopted by the three other Atlantic provinces as they also try to grow their populations.

Under the program, students who are entering their third year of university undergraduate studies, or the first year of NSCC two-year diploma programs in the province of Nova Scotia, are provided with enhanced support throughout their studies in Nova Scotia to ensure each student gains the education, tools, and community connections needed to launch a successful career and a fulfilling life in our province.

The “Study and Stay” program includes career mentoring and access to employment-related events and workshops, and there is also a subsidy to help local employers offset the cost of hiring students for a work-term after they graduate. The program currently provides targeted support and services for up to 50 international students in our province during their final year of post-secondary studies, with expectations of significant future growth.

It’s encouraging that future international students at our own county NSCC campuses will also be able to participate in this program and get to better appreciate what we have to offer in rewarding local employment opportunities and an envious quality of life.

Of equal interest to us is Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture just down the road at Bible Hill. Cumberland County is the second largest county in Nova Scotia and is home to 14 per cent of all Nova Scotia farms, being blessed with 30 per cent of the quality soils in the province.

The Bible Hill campus programs combine the core disciplines of agricultural sciences with business management and innovative technology. With a syllabus that includes engineering, landscape architecture, international food business, aquaculture, and much more.

Needless to say, this centre of expertise has to be of interest to both India and China with a total of almost three billion mouths to feed; and more to the point our county provides a perfect training ground for graduating students

On a personal note my wife and had some experience in assisting students from China following our adoption of our two daughters on a couple of visits to that remarkable country. There were two young students in particular we befriended who arrived separately in Halifax to study but became romantically involved, graduated together, gained Canadian citizenship, started a family, and subsequently built thriving businesses in Halifax.

For a brief instant they considered giving Toronto a try but came to feel so comfortable in their adopted Nova Scotia home, as did their parents who regularly visit the grand-kids and their “second home”.

Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at alanwalter@eastlink.ca.

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