Ivan Pohrebniyak

Ivan Pohrebniyak, an international student at SFU from Kyiv, (Kiev) Ukraine, is completing a joint major in business administration and economics.

International student numbers still shy of 10 per cent

April 3, 2008

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A new dual-certification program with two universities in France is the latest in a series of initiatives Nello Angerilli hopes will improve SFU’s appeal to international students.

In 2003, the university set a five-year goal to increase international student enrolment from seven per cent of the total student population to 10 per cent. It’s still 42 international students short of that goal, with approximately 2,000 registered this year.

“We need international students,” says Angerilli, SFU’s associate vice-president, students and international. “A diverse body of international students brings a truly global classroom discussion to students who otherwise would just hear the Burnaby view.”

But attracting international students to SFU is no easy feat. “We have to put in a tremendous amount of effort to get international students through the door,” says Mehran Kiai, director, enrollment services.

“We first have to sell them on Canada, then B.C. as a destination, then SFU as opposed to other universities,” he explains. “We have a strong value proposition but we have to communicate that through many filters of understanding; we have to overcome so many obstacles.”

The Canadian Bureau of International Education reports that Canada ranks 14th in the world as a destination for foreign students, with just three per cent enroling in Canadian universities. While Australia’s foreign-student enrolment grew 169 per cent in the six years between 1998/99-2004/05, Canada’s grew just 14.8 per cent.

Once an international student does select a Canadian university, there is still a big hurdle: the student visa.

Wait times for a Canadian student visa, says Angerilli, can vary anywhere from six weeks to six months. Compare that to 48 hours in the U.K., five days in Australia and two weeks in the U.S.

“So why would they wait around for a Canadian visa?” he asks. Angerilli has been lobbying politicians for changes, to no avail. “Most federal politicians are completely uninterested,” he says.

Boosting international enrolment
SFU has developed a number of innovative partnerships to help attract international student enrolment, including:
  • A dual-degree program with China’s Zhejiang University. Students attend each university for two years of study and then receive degrees from both institutions.
  • A dual-certification program, through the Faculty of Education, with Université de Maine and Université François Rabelais in France. Participating teachers have the option of earning French-teaching credentials in both countries.
  • A two-plus-two program with partner universities in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Students transfer to SFU for their last two years of study and earn a degree here.
  • A memorandum of understanding for new partnerships with two Indonesian institutions and discussions for another partnership with a second Chinese university.
  • English, study skills and academic preparatory programs at SFU for students from a premium overseas university, with plans to implement a similar program with another university.
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