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International students bring big money to region

Out-of-country students bring on average $35,000 into our economy

When Carolyn Russell visits India it’s not for the awe-inspiring sights or the food. It’s to hunt.

Russell, the University of Victoria’s director of student recruitment, visited India and Bangladesh last fall looking for potential students.

“We don’t do advertising but we do recruitment visits,” said Russell.

She’d been to India before and was eager to meet more students with strong academic backgrounds and family ties to Canada.

The recruitment trip was a success, as the university received applications from students from both countries.

“We recruit to internationalize our campus and add new perspective to our campus,” said Russell, adding UVic has been actively recruiting internationally for about 10 years.

This year UVic has nearly 2,000 international students. In the last three years the number jumped 26 per cent, a number the university is expecting to continue to rise.

“Like all students, (international students) contribute to the local economy,” said Russell. “They buy goods and services. They encourage friends to come study here and their families come to visit.”

Many international students stay in Canada after they graduate, Russell pointed out, adding she has no clear numbers on how many become permanent residents.

Aside from the beautiful landscapes with oceans, lakes and trees, Russell speculates students from across the world flock to Victoria for the “co-operative education and experimental learning” offered at UVic.

Most international students who come to UVic arrive from either China or the United States.

The school recruits students worldwide and has three recruitment staff travelling for 16 weeks a year to draw in new students from abroad.

“Countries from all over the world are represented in our university,” said Russell.

The interests of international students are as broad as domestic students, but the most popular department is social sciences, with engineering and business also common choices.

Russell said it’s common for international students to live on-campus for the first year, then move off-campus.

Even smaller institutions such as Royal Roads University see a significant impact from its international students, said Thevi Pather, director of global advancement at RRU.

The university offers a lot of distance learning courses with short intensive residencies and on-campus programs.

The distance courses are more popular with Canadians, and most international students opt for the on-campus experience, Pather said.

This school year RRU has about 250 international students, and most of them live off campus.

Most RRU international students arrive from China, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America.

Pather said that on average international students bring between $32,000 to $35,000 into the local economy through tuition and living expenses.

“That’s no small change,” he said.

RRU, like UVic, also has recruiting staff travelling to countries in search of attracting more students.