INTERNATIONAL education continues to grow in British Columbia with a 13-per-cent increase in international students since 2010, a 17-per-cent increase in spending by international students, and the launch of a revamped website that helps B.C. students connect with opportunities to study abroad.

“The growth we’re seeing in international education is great news, and speaks to the quality of our world-class education sector,” said Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk on Tuesday. “As we strengthen trade relationships around the world it’s more important than ever for B.C. students to learn from international students in their classes here at home, and to study abroad, gaining experience and making connections in other countries.”

There were 106,600 international students attending public and private post-secondary institutions, elementary and secondary schools, and language training schools in British Columbia in 2011-12, up from 94,000 in 2009-10.

International students spent close to $2.1 billion in British Columbia on tuition, accommodation and other living expenses, arts and culture, and recreation, supporting over 23,400 jobs and having a direct economic impact on communities and regions across the province.

The latest numbers on student spending come from an updated report on the economic impact of international education in British Columbia by noted economist Roslyn Kunin of Roslyn Kunin and Associates. The report was commissioned by the B.C. Council for International Education (BCCIE), a provincial Crown corporation with a mandate to support international education.

“British Columbia has experienced continued growth in terms of attracting quality international students to participate in our education system in the public and private sectors,” said Randall Martin, executive director of BCCIE. “These students not only make a valuable contribution to B.C.’s economy today, but they will play an increasingly critical role in addressing the widening job gap as a result of B.C.’s aging demographic and declining birth-rates.”

While more international students than ever are choosing to come to British Columbia every year, government continues to work with its education partners to expand opportunities for B.C. students to study in other countries, and to increase awareness of study abroad programs. These efforts have resulted in the launch of a revamped website:

The website is hosted by BCCIE, in support of the British Columbia Study Abroad (BCSA) Consortium – a group of post-secondary institutions that work together to encourage students to gain international academic experience by offering short-term study-abroad programs across disciplines and countries around the world.

Also known as “field schools,” short-term study-abroad programs develop skills, knowledge and life experiences that students carry with them as they complete their degrees, and after graduation.

“The opportunity for students from B.C. to engage in such activities as international study exchanges, practicum completion on humanitarian projects or international service learning partnerships is instrumental to providing an inspiring, transforming and globally relevant education for our students,” said Angus Graeme, president of Selkirk College and chair of BC Colleges.

The BCSA website connects students with Consortium institutions’ short-term study-abroad programs, provides information on scholarships and other funding resources, and helps students apply to their program of choice.

In May 2012, as part of the BC Jobs Plan, government officially launched British Columbia’s International Education Strategy, which promotes the global two-way flow of students, educators and ideas between countries. The strategy was developed to position the province and its residents to benefit even more from the social, cultural and economic opportunities that flow from international education activities.