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More international students choosing to stay in Nova Scotia after graduation

The province's retention of international students has finally surpassed the 10 per cent goal set out in the 2014 Ivany Report
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The province's retention of international students has finally surpassed the 10 per cent goal set out in the 2014 Ivany Report.

In 2018, the most recent year with information available, retention his 12.6 per cent, up from 9.4 per cent in 2017.

"Our universities are working very hard and applying more time, energy and resources at attracting international students," says Peter Halpin, Executive Director of the Association of Atlantic Universities.

Halpin says that not only are Nova Scotian universities attracting the students, but they are having a good time here in Canada.

"The survey work we've done among international students indicates overall that they're having a very positive experience in terms of not just their academic experience but also their social experience," he tells NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show.

In total, Nova Scotia now has over 11,817 international students enrolled for 2019-2020, up from 9,512 last academic year, according to data from the AAU.

"Year over year it's an over 24 per cent increase in the number of students," explains Halpin, who says numbers have been steadily going up since 2017.

One university that's seen a particularly large increase has been Cape Breton University, which more than doubled its number of international students this year.

"They've done a remarkable job of attracting Indian students to their university and to the local community, and it's having a pretty significant impact," says Halpin.

The executive director of the AAU says that Cape Breton University has seen an uptick in the number of students from India who have come to study.

"There's no doubt that Cape Breton University has had a couple of banner years in terms of attraction of international students, primarily from India," he adds.

The Sydney, N.S. university now has upwards of 3,400 international students.

The recent report from One Nova Scotia also shows that students coming here are becoming more likely to stay after graduation.

"Local businesses and industry are taking advantage of co-op placements, especially among international students," Halpin says. "And of course when those students have a positive experience, they want to stay."

Halpin says business owners and executives have told him that they are hiring more international students, and they were positively contributing to the company.

"[A CEO] was telling me about the great experience that his organization has had with international co-op students, four of whom that he's hired," he says. "And from countries like Nigeria, Honduras, India. And he was telling me about what a positive impact those students have had on his business, in terms of their talent, their quality and their energy."

Halpin is glad to see the growth and thinks the tides may finally have turned for Nova Scotia's retention of immigrants.

"For a long time, we had a history of attracting and retaining the least number of immigrants in the entire country. Now, those fortunes have been reversed in Nova Scotia and in PEI, which is very positive," he adds.

And the growth doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon. Halpin thinks that as more students come here, their friends and fellow students from their home countries are more likely to do the same.

"Word of mouth is often the best advertisement and the best way to attract more students, and we seem to be doing that," he says. "It's pleasing to see that our universities here in Nova Scotia are more than holding their own."


Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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