Meghraj Solanki came to Canada from the Gujarat province in India, to earn his master’s degree in applied computing. He was ready for all that Canada had to offer. So, what wasn’t he expecting? The fact that his applied computing program of 80 people would have no Canadian students in it. Sure, there are students from Nigeria, China, and Germany but none from the actual country from where he is studying.
This is just one of the many examples that is becoming more and more prevalent at the University of Windsor, as the amount of international graduate students has risen drastically over the last 10 years. Since 2007, the amount of international graduate students has spiked 374 per cent, from 367 to 1741 students.
This data is published yearly by the University of Windsor, and is compiled to show the breakdown of domestic and visa (international) students by academic level. The data is put together by the University Student Information System.
Through the fall semester, there are now more international graduate students than domestic graduate students, with international students making up 57 per cent of the graduate population. This is the second year where this has happened as international graduate students made up 54 per cent of the population in 2015.
This is in comparison to 2007 where international graduate students made up only 28 per cent of the graduate population.
Caption: This graph shows the steady increase of the international graduate student population, in comparison to the domestic populaiton.
Solanki does not view this as a problem. “If you have friends outside your class it doesn’t matter,” he said. Yet he knows this is not the reality for many students coming from abroad to complete their graduate degrees. He credits his choice of being involved with numerous clubs and organizations on campus for his easy transition from his undergrad in India.
Mike Houston is the Director of the International Student centre at the University of Windsor. He says that there are many ways that international students are supported at the university. “The International Student Centre provides transition support for all international students on campus. Support is also provided within specific program areas as well”, he said. Houston specified that the Centre for Executive and Professional Education and Centre for English Language Development would mainly support international graduate students.
Solanki points out that not having any Canadians is very noticeable. “I was so surprised the first day that there was no Canadians,” he said. Solanki said his computing professors were not phased with his international class. He believes one of the main reasons for this is because Windsor is one of the few Canadian schools with specialized graduate programs in things like computing.
Solanki brought up how when he was searching for a place to complete his graduate degree in computing in Canada he was left with two options, Concordia or Windsor.
Domestic graduate students do not feel that having more international students is a problem. Ian Wood, a masters of business administration student at the Odette School of Business from Warkworth, Ontario believes international graduate students only add to the school’s experience. “You not only get the benefit of working with people from all over the world, but you get to learn from their experiences, and their way of doing things,” he said.
Jennie Atkins heads up the Centre for Executive and Professional Education at the university, which handles all course based graduate programs, and most international recruitment and admissions. She believes that international graduate recruitment has been a focus of the university since its strategic mandate was published in 2005. “International recruitment is definitely a strategic plan for the university,” she said.
Though Atkins followed this by saying that domestic recruitment is always very important to the school.
Atkins notes international graduate recruitment is focused on a very specific set of countries such as China, Brazil, India, and Mexico. She says the school is also pursuing students from the United Kingdom quite heavily.
One reason for the influx of international student may be due to the availability of jobs in Canada in fields such as computing. Atkins said she has experienced a lot of interest from students from Mexico and Brazil, to stay in Canada upon completion of their degree.
Yet, even though international graduate student revenue makes up 20 per cent of the total institutional tuition fee revenue for the University of Windsor, according to the 2016 budget titled “Budget 2.0 for UWindsor 2.0: An enrolment centered model”, Atkins does not believe domestic student recruitment for graduate programs has been delayed. “The university is always keen for a domestic increase as well,” she said.
It can also be noticed in the budget how the university projected for the fall 2016 semester that international graduate students would make up 11.6 per cent of the student body, with only domestic undergraduate students having a higher student population.
Atkins also discussed how programs such as the masters of management is a major draw for international graduate students. She believes this is because there are courses such as International accounting and international finance that are offered.
Atkins finished by saying she believes the international graduate population will only continue to grow, as the strategic mandate for the university’s future is still centered around growing the international student population. As for Solanki, he plans to try and stay in Canada upon graduation and pursue a career in computing.