Memorandum of Understanding


Penny wise, pound foolish approach to international students

New MOU contradicts ACOA investment


Dalhousie University medical student Mariam Shehu from Nigeria. Photo: Kaanayo Nwachukwu

Global connections, investment opportunities and new ideas as well as contribution to our cultural diversity and economy are just a microcosm of what international students bring to Canada when they come here to study.

Hence, universities across Canada have incentives in place to attract as many foreign or overseas students as they can. It almost seems like there is cutthroat competition between them as they strive to do just that, going by how much these incentives cost the schools.

With that in mind, I don't believe Canadian universities want international students to come here to study purely for the diversity they bring. I think they also want to ding them for a chunk of change.

Just this past week, the minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), was in Halifax to announce that the Government of Canada would use $185,000 to attract international students to the province of Nova Scotia this year.

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University of King's College journalism student Dorine Schreiner from the Netherlands. Photo: Kaanayo Nwachukwu

Bernard Valcourt said the money would be invested in EduNova, which is a non-profit organization that promotes Nova Scotia's educational institutions and the programs they offer around the world.

ACOA also invested $215,000 in the same organization last year, for the very same purpose.

At a news conference at Saint Mary's University, Valcourt said, "Let's be clear, the work of attracting international students is highly competitive."

I wonder if Valcourt knows that as he and his department work hard to make international students choose Nova Scotia, the Dexter government is frustrating their efforts, going by its recent decision to remove the cap on tuition fees paid by foreign students.

Methinks this decision (that allowed the tuition of international students to rise above the three per cent restriction applied to Nova Scotia students) contained in the most recent Memorandum of Understanding signed by university presidents and the provincial government is nothing short of what the English would simply refer to as "penny wise, pound foolish."

On one hand, Nova Scotia (a province whose economy is education-based) wants these students to make its universities their destinations of choice in Canada. On the other, the Government of Nova Scotia is enacting policies or making decisions that will hurt these students and make them choose anywhere else in Canada but Nova Scotia to come and study.

According to a Canadian Council on Education report published in 2009 entitled "The Economic Impact of International Students Enrolled in Nova Scotia Universities: An Expenditure Analysis," in 2008 - 2009 academic year, universities in Nova Scotia had a grand total of 3,524 international students whose total direct expenditure was $100,574,960.

That probably explains why Valcourt said Ottawa's investment in EduNova would help the organization assist "international students in their transition to Nova Scotia."

I, for one, do not buy that. I am convinced international students would better succeed in the province if they knew exactly how much their tuition fees are going to go up by. That will allow for proper planning on their part, as well as on the part of their parents. Not every international student comes from a wealthy home or has a super-rich sponsor.

Many international students consider coming to Nova Scotia to study as a stepping-stone to becoming permanent residents and ultimately Canadian citizens. As a result, it won't hurt for the provincial government to factor in the long-time contributions they will make to Nova Scotia and the nation before removing the cap on their tuition fees - a decision that might be misconstrued by prospective international students as an unwelcoming sign to them.

As Andrea Ashton, spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia International Student Program recently said, "We have a declining population here, so these students being in the classroom certainly doesn't hurt."


As an international student, i strongly agree with this write up and i must say the writer- Mr. Kaanayo has done justice to the topic. I for one as also for others, will like to know what the percentage increases on tuition fees will be in the future and as mentioned in the write up, it helps with planning. Job well done Mr. Kaanayo.

Posted by ANTHONIA AIGBOTSUA | Jan 21, 2022 3:53 PM AT

Kaanayo Nwachukwu has pointed to the issue. If goverments plan to populate Canada, then they should do just that. However, if they intend to turn institutions of learning into money-making centres, they might as well forget about poplating Canada

Posted by Margaret Agbalizu | Jan 21, 2022 7:30 PM AT

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