- A four-part series by Michael Lightstone, The Ivany Report Report can be found at thecoast.ca. The next installment arrives March 19.
From what I know, all my friends will try to settle here rather than going home.—Deric Johnson, graduate student
Nova Scotia is home to young folks from foreign lands who came for their post-secondary education and stayed after graduation. But not nearly enough are willing or able to remain here. This province could use twice the number of international students who’ve decided to become permanent residents, the Ivany commission report recommended.
The provincial panel put forth a goal of retaining a 10 percent annual average of foreign students who’ve graduated from degree- and diploma-granting institutions. Should it be reached, this population-increase target would represent roughly double the current rate.
A lofty goal, yet one that’s achievable? Time will tell.
Deric Johnson, a graduate student from India, says he is intending to remain in the province following his completion later this year of Dalhousie University’s master of applied computer science program. “I would love to find a job and start working here,” Johnson, 26, says in an email. “From what I know, all my [foreign student] friends will try to settle here rather than going home.”
The commissioners know boosting the number of Nova Scotians is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, in the chase for economic renewal. The hope of an increased retention of foreign students is part of a 10-year action plan outlined by the group, headed by Acadia University president Ray Ivany.
“More in-depth analysis, consultation and refinement will be required before [such a retention goal is] formally adopted,” said the Ivany Report, a self-described “urgent call to action for Nova Scotians.” Like several of the report’s other recommendations, the devil will be in the details.
Advocates of “jobs for Canadians” and other anti-foreign worker types feel differently than the Ivany commission, pointing to the stubbornly high jobless rate for Nova Scotian youth. At least 18 percent, that rate is more than twice the amount for older people.
Student groups fully support the commission’s report, saying they’re encouraged by its clarion call for action on the retention matter. Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says ditto. “The city has a program where we’re hiring people right out of university and college to make the transition here easier” and help keep recent graduates in the province, he says. Our population is expected to decline during the next two decades, as young workers continue to search for jobs elsewhere, Ivany has said.
Universities religiously recruit international students, who pay higher tuition fees than their Canadian counterparts. At Dalhousie, there are students from such regions as the Middle East, the Caribbean, Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Saint Mary’s University has students from more than 100 countries, including many from China.
Saint Mary’s student Dipon Debnath, 19, is pursuing a bachelor of commerce. The Bangladeshi student says he plans to graduate in April 2016. “Most people I know want to stay here,” Debnath says.
But like their Bluenose peers, only good jobs and a promising future will entice foreign students to stick around.