Matt Mc Cann
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick needs to market its "educational brand" to bring international students to the province, according to one of the recommendations from the post-secondary education working group.
The group, composed of the presidents and principals of the province's community colleges and universities, was charged with reviewing the original, widely-protested PSE report.
Though it still has not been released, a copy obtained by the Telegraph-Journal calls for the birth of six different bureaucratic agencies, including a PSE Agency as the central authority, with the creation of an International Marketing Bureau as an offshoot of that.
The IMB would create a marketing campaign to attract international students, and be given the responsibility of directly and indirectly helping the colleges with recruitment.
Though the development of a marketing strategy is set for 2009, with the initiation of the campaign to begin in 2010, it's unclear what concrete steps the report wants the government to take.
Kemale Pinar, manager of international recruiting at the University of New Brunswick, said the schools and the province need to start working together.
"I think we have to be more collaborative and have a more focused approach," she said, "to match the areas that we target together."
Tom Buckley, registrar for UNBSJ, said their international student numbers have declined 25 per cent since peaking in 2004.
He said other governments, like Australia, who have recognized education as a major service and invested in marketing, have met with success.
Though the provincial government has taken some good first steps, like the provincial nominee program and streamlining the visa process to make it easier for foreign students to work after graduation, he said there's always the opportunity to do more.
"I suppose one could argue that the universities and the government collectively could get together and work a little more effectively on how we attract students in the first place," he said.
Meanwhile, most of the province's universities are already engaged in marketing themselves abroad.
"We do international travel," said Kate Crawford, director of recruitment for St. Thomas University. "We're actually going into the high schools and talking to students"
She said that last year they formed partnerships with students in China, Latin America, Mexico and the United States.
"Wherever we can, we team up with other Atlantic institutions," she said, "because it's easier to sell the Atlantic region and then talk about our individual schools."
Crawford said about five per cent of students are international, and their goal is to increase that to 10 per cent.
Over at Mount Allison University, Matt Sheridan-Jones, manager of admissions, said they've finally reached their goal of having a 10 per cent international student enrolment.
He said it's crucial that the province's universities keep working together if they want government support.
"It's just a matter of everybody being on the same page," he said.
He said the province's role in recruiting right now is relatively minor, and everyone would gain if that were to change.
"I think the immigration strategy that the province is looking to enhance would benefit the universities, and the universities could really benefit the province," he said. "So, I think it's something that we should continue to work together on."