International students provide major benefits

February 24, 2016

By Andrew Wilkinson, Vancouver Sun |

When international students arrive in B.C., not only do they benefit from high-quality education, they also bring a wide range of short- and long-term social, cultural and economic benefits.

Students who choose B.C. have a positive impact on our communities, our education institutions, and their campus colleagues. International students drive our diverse and growing economy long after they graduate, whether they decide to stay in their adoptive community or move elsewhere and establish a trading relationship with the province.

A recent article in The Economist spells out the benefits of welcoming international students, and how crossing international borders in search of an education has been going on for more than 2,000 years.

While the public post-secondary education system in B.C. is not as ancient as some European institutions, our province has a long history of being the study destination of choice for students from around the world.

When the University of B.C. opened its doors in 1915 there were 18 international students — all from the United Kingdom. In 1916, UBC enrolled its first student from Japan — Junichi Hokkyo, who went on to earn a B.A. in 1920. Also listed that year was Evelyn McKay of Goldbar, Wash. — the first known American student at UBC, who graduated in 1919. Shu-Yen Chen and Jung Bow Wing, both from China and the first known students from that country, started classes in 1917.

Going back further, the 1913 yearbook of McGill University College of B.C., the predecessor of UBC, listed G.Y.K. Shuen, “born somewhere in China”, as an applied science student — but at that time, before UBC opened and with McGill B.C. offering classes only in the first two years, he would have had to complete his degree elsewhere.

About one-third of all the international students who come to Canada select an educational institution in B.C.

The number of international students hosted by B.C. has increased 22 per cent to 114,600 in 2013-14, from 94,000 in 2009-10. This includes students studying in public and private post-secondary institutions, private language schools, and K-12 schools.

While the immediate benefits are of happy memories, valuable contacts and a shared cultural experience, there are also deeper, long-term benefits, whether the students decide to stay on in Canada after graduation or build their personal and professional lives in another country.

International students are unique in that they pay the full cost of their post-secondary education. The tuition costs for an international student can be three or four times higher than the subsidized tuition for domestic students.

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