Last week premier Greg Selinger announced changes to Manitoba’s provincial nominee program, encouraging international students, like those at the University of Winnipeg, to work and stay in the province after graduating.
With relaxed rules on international visas, the U of W’s goal is to double the current number of international students to 1,000.
“We’d like to see 10 per cent of our student body be composed of international students,” said Neil Besner, vice-president of research and international affairs for the U of W.
International students who have graduated from at least a two-year academic program in Manitoba will be able to immediately apply to the nominee program. Before 2011, international graduates could only apply after working for at least six months in Manitoba.
For students like Jian Ren, who came from China to get his master’s degree in applied computer science, the change is beneficial.
“I don’t have time right now to look for a job, I’m too busy with my thesis,” Ren said. “Since I now have time to look for one after graduating, I plan on staying in Winnipeg.”
Besner states that a lot of international students come here planning on becoming Canadian citizens and that the province is trying in every way they can to meet their goal of 20,000 immigrants this year.
“With resources like our tuition rebates, scholarship and bursary programs, work permits and provincial nominee programs, Manitoba is an attractive place for international students,” he said.
After six months of living in Manitoba, international students can work off-campus. Ren says that a lot of students don’t like working during the school year as it interferes with their studies.
With such aggressive recruitment, there are concerns the university may not be ready to see a sudden influx of international students. In McFeetors Hall residence, some students have experienced a lack of social integration between other students and the community.
Mohammed Ahmed Fawaz A Aldawalibi is studying English at the U of W for the winter and sees a lack of amalgamation on campus.
“The people I know don’t socialize,” he said. “It’s hard to meet new people because our English isn’t very good ... so we stick with other Saudi Arabians.”
Ren also expressed concerns for the program, as he lacked proper orientation upon arriving in Winnipeg two winters ago.
“International students may not know about the resources the university provides,” he said. “We need better orientation for them and to encourage communication.”
The university opened an International Student Lounge this year, which neither Ren nor Aldawalibi have visited.
“I’d like to see programming in McFeetors that would increase socializing and our knowledge of the community,” said Aldawalibi.
Besner thinks that cultural cliques in McFeetors are unfortunate, but points out that the university is trying to integrate international students as best they can.
“Our whole attention is spent trying to integrate them into campus life and not separate them from our regular students,” said Besner.
Published in Volume 65, Number 5 of The Uniter (September 30, 2010)