An international Queen’s

Kieran Slobodin and Daniel Moore debate the merits and pitfalls of internationalization

Daniel Moore, Ph.D ’11
Daniel Moore, Ph.D ’11
Kieran Slobodin, ArtSci ’12
Kieran Slobodin, ArtSci ’12

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors in this debate are not necessarily the views held by the Alma Mater Society, the Society of Graduate and Professional Students, or those they represent.

Kieran Slobodin, ArtSci ’12

Queen’s University has been discovering its priorities over the past 10 months. All the research, town halls and group consulting will eventually culminate in an Academic Plan that will guide this University for the foreseeable future. The latest product of this process, Imagining the Future, has made one thing clear—Queen’s University needs more international students.

Queen’s isn’t alone. The Ontario Government has announced that they will incentivize universities to expand their international enrolment across Ontario. Queen’s needs to follow suit. International students diversify the student body and bring with them a multitude of experiences that enrich our campus. Having a diverse student body opens students up to new cultures and new experiences. Students challenge their perceptions of other cultures, and the spectrum of opinions in the classroom expands, enhancing the learning experience at Queen’s.

Opening our doors to international students may also lead to increased demand in academic courses that are not financially sustainable at current level’s demand. In my first two years at Queen’s I studied Arabic. The class was small, but for those of us enrolled, it remains one of the highlights of our undergraduate experience. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough demand to justify a third level course.

Higher international enrolment may have changed that. International students may bring with them a different set of interests than domestic students and, in turn, that demand may sustain courses that domestic students wouldn’t otherwise have access to. More international students embody exactly what Queen’s needs—a diverse learning experience.

Daniel Moore, Ph.D ’11

I completely agree with the last statement; Queen’s does need a diverse learning experience, by which we both mean, I assume, a more diverse learning experience.

But how can we be so confident we’ll achieve it by simply increasing international enrolment?

This campus is not known for its diverse student population, but it’s not like Queen’s is virgin territory to international students.

Imagining the Future does a disservice to our current international student body by suggesting that it doesn’t bring the right kind, or the right amount of diversity to the school.

Notice how the policy we’re talking about puts the onus to diversify Ontarian campuses on international students.

Your vision also places the burden on certain students to introduce diversity to the school while domestic students can passively absorb an enriched cosmopolitan environment.

What kind of responsibilities towards diversity are we advocating, and ingraining?

The rush to quantify diversity avoids hard questions about how the school will ensure that those students coming here will have equal opportunity to participate and succeed.

Several internal reports over the last few years attest to inadequacies of all kinds of support for students from abroad. By ‘support’ I not only mean financial aid but also the entire cultural, procedural and behavioural climate at the school.

Is it responsible to invite still more individuals to come to Canada, along with their families in the case of many graduate students, with the cost of UHIP rising and with reports of racial harassment on campus?

Slobodin

I’ll concede that Queen’s certainly needs to increase support services for international students, but that doesn’t refute the argument that increased international enrolment gives the University more justification to enhance those services. Increased enrolment would require increased capacity of services and supports, exactly what you’re arguing for.

You’re assuming the worst by suggesting that our domestic students would sit back and passively absorb the benefits that international students bring to campus.

I don’t think anyone could make the argument that Queen’s students are passive, unengaged learners. Indeed, one of the resonances that Imagining the Future identified is the desire for our students to be Global Citizens, instilled with social purpose. That’s not a trait one obtains passively.

But let’s talk about the benefits that are passive. Higher international enrolment increases the University’s reputation in world markets and, by extension, the value of its degrees.

The more ubiquitous Queen’s students become, the higher the chance that a potential employer or graduate school will have had experience with the high quality students that Queen’s produces, and the more favourable their perspective of our students will be. The University is working hard at forging exchange connections with other schools to establish the very same thing. After all, internationalization is a two-way street and as we open doors to the international community, so must we increase the number of exchange and study abroad opportunities available to domestic students.

High international enrolment exposes us to the world and the world to us: it’s mutually beneficial.

Moore

As you point out, raising international enrolment isn’t an end in itself for the school, nor the government.

We envision a host of benefits that will follow from a greater spotlight in global post-secondary markets.

But Imagining the Future argues that we can no longer think about reputation in abstract terms. We need to aggressively measure it, hence the repeated calls for metrics.

When we draw connections between international student attendance and prestige, are we filling in the gaps with wishful thinking because it promises an easy solution?

I maintain—and maybe this is what Imagining the Future is getting at about metrics—that we need to focus on how we teach and research and work rather than assume that prestige is just someone else’s perception about us that we can manipulate.

International student attendance is the reward that follows, not the trick to get there.

But we know this already, so why the push to inflate these numbers? There are very strong financial incentives.

Is it a coincidence that the greatest proportion of international students are also graduates? Graduate international students pay four times the domestic tuition rate and bring external funding to the school in some cases.

But Imagining specifically notes that the school should increase undergraduate international enrolment.

Someone should ask if we should do so because we haven’t been very honest about our attempts to diversify thus far or because we’ve been neglecting another lucrative member of the student body.

Daniel Moore is the SGPS vice-president (graduate) and Kieran Slobdin is the AMS academic affiars comissioner.

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