International students: Many obstacles to be overcome if Montreal is to retain its strategic position

September 25, 2014

The Conférence régionale des élus (CRÉ) de Montréal, Montréal International, the city’s institutions of higher education and their partners released a paper this morning at Montreal City Hall concerning the urgent need for action to attract and retain the top international students to Montreal. The group of local stakeholders is calling on the different levels of government to quickly remove the obstacles hindering Montreal and its colleges and universities from taking their rightful places as international destinations for students in a highly competitive market.

The paper notes that despite the rapidly expanding phenomenon of student mobility worldwide and continuing growth in the number of international students coming to the city, Montreal and Quebec as a whole are losing ground to the rest of Canada. The 26 recommendations in the paper invite all the parties concerned to work together and co-ordinate their efforts to address all aspects of attracting, welcoming, integrating and retaining international students. More broadly, it urges the Quebec government to work with Quebec educational institutions to develop a policy on the internationalization of higher education, allowing the province to meet the challenges of international mobility in the 21st century.

“For Montreal, which has 25,000 international students enrolled at its colleges and universities, one-third of them graduate students, this pool of young talent is an indisputable key to our positioning as a city of knowledge, innovation and creativity,” notes Richard Deschamps, Senior Vice-President of the CRÉ de Montréal. “Their huge contribution means that we must act immediately to keep Montreal a choice destination and optimize their stay with us. We are confident that the proactive and collective approach that inspires the CRÉ de Montréal and its partners will bear fruit and that the government will seize this opportunity to show leadership in internationalizing higher education.”


Skyrocketing student mobility

Student mobility is seeing phenomenal growth worldwide. With new origins, destinations and student profiles, the number of international students in the OECD countries rose from 2 million to 4.1 million between 2000 and 2010, and close to 4.3 million in 2011. It is expected to reach 6.4 million by 2025. These students are valued and appreciated for their exceptional potential, and countries and cities in both the western and emerging worlds are competing more and more fiercely to attract and, if possible, retain them.


Strategic importance and a valuable contribution

For host countries, these international talents represent a sizeable economic asset. In 2010, their presence translated into substantial immediate economic spin-off – over $1 billion for Quebec in spending by students, some 10,000 jobs generated and upwards of $88 million contributed to the public treasury. With a diploma from a Montreal institution, their networks of contacts and their experience of living here, these graduates represent a superb pool of potential immigrants and excellent ambassadors for Montreal abroad.

“Greater Montréal isn’t large enough to rely on numbers, and more than ever we have to depend on attracting and retaining international students to ensure our economic growth,” says Dominique Anglade, President and CEO of Montréal International. “This is even more important in the context of an increasingly competitive world economy based on knowledge, where the availability of talent is one of the main criteria for foreign investors looking for a place to locate.”

In addition to these economic benefits, there is the impact of these students’ presence on research and development. All institutions of higher education agree that it is unthinkable, in the 21st century, to guarantee high-quality teaching and research without a global knowledge network. The vitality of our campuses and the international reputation of our institutions and our city all rely on this kind of collaboration. Montreal’s colleges and universities are pleased to see all the key regional partners and decision makers working together, in this paper, to strengthen this indispensable asset for our entire community.


Montreal’s position: advantages to be exploited, priorities for action

Named one of the top ten student cities in the world by QS two years running (2012 and 2013), outranking cities like Barcelona, Tokyo, New York and Amsterdam, Montreal has some convincing arguments when it comes to carving out a place for itself on the world stage. “Montreal has a lot to offer international students,” says Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. “It is a recognized university and research centre, at the crossroads of North America and Europe, with a remarkable quality of life that appeals to young people from all over and is in fact partly due to their presence.”

Drawing on these substantial assets, these Montreal stakeholders are proposing a series of measures to allow the city to shine as one of the best and to benefit from all the cultural, social, economic and scientific wealth that these international students create.

Among the recommendations in the paper are simplifying the overall immigration process and reviewing the funding structure for postsecondary educational institutions, with the goal of achieving greater flexibility and consistency in the costs associated with recruiting and hosting these students. Greater support for internationalizing college education, particularly in technical fields, for instance by opening up the number of places available at Montreal colleges, is another recommendation. Improving the integration of students in Quebec society, in both professional and linguistic terms, is also necessary, as well as introducing incentives to retain the top talents.


Background and signatories

The paper was produced as part of the “Montreal: City of learning, knowledge and innovation” initiative by the CRÉ de Montréal and, in particular, its committee to promote openness to the citizens of the world. The signatories are Montréal International, the Université de Montréal, McGill University, the Université du Québec à Montréal, Concordia University, Polytechnique Montréal, HEC Montréal, École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), the Regroupement des collèges du Montréal métropolitain (RCMM), the Ville de Montréal, the Forum jeunesse de l’île de Montréal (FJÎM) and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (BTMM).

Source: CRÉ de Montréal

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