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College invites world; Canada blocks doors

May 1, 2008

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Fraser International College (FIC), the private preparatory college for international students adjacent to SFU’s Burnaby campus, has significantly boosted the university’s international student enrolment and established a strong global-recruitment network since it opened 19 months ago.

But both the university and FIC continue to be frustrated in their recruitment efforts by Canadian government restrictions that make it extraordinarily difficult for foreign students to obtain entry visas, says associate VP-students and international Nello Angerilli.

"The U.S. has actually made it easier post-911 for foreign students to enroll in American universities — and Australia has made it easier still," says Angerilli. "But we’re stuck with the same very, very bad policies, and the federal government’s immigration and visa-approval practices are neither recruitment friendly nor time sensitive. It’s extremely frustrating both for SFU and the families of the potential students involved."

FIC began its first semester in Sept. 2006 with 85 students, offering three university transfer program preparatory (UTP I) courses and five university transfer program (UTP II) courses from SFU. The prep college admitted another 74 students in Jan. 2007, 52 more last May, 220 in Sept. 2007 and about 200 more in Jan. 2008.

FIC now offers 19 UTP II and eight UTP I courses, and it has also added a program similar to SFU’s English bridge program to ensure that its students are well prepared for study in English at SFU.

Of the 22 FIC students who completed the 10 courses required for university transfer last summer, 19 transferred to SFU for the fall 2007 semester, primarily into the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Business Administration and Applied Sciences. Another 28 FIC grads transferred to SFU in January 2008. Only two students have dropped out of FIC, both for academic reasons.

In short, says VP-academic John Waterhouse, "FIC is meeting the enrolment projections it agreed to with SFU. They have established recruiting networks around the world. So far, their students are mainly from China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, but we expect more geographic diversity in the next few years, with a greater number of students coming from Africa and India in particular."

Waterhouse says SFU needs to attract more students from other provinces as well, "and we are not attracting many students from the U.S. We’re actively seeking increases in both areas."

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