Last year’s Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. are changing the complex calculus for many foreign students about how to choose a university abroad. And it appears Canada – and U of T – will benefit.
Ted Sargent, U of T’s vice-president, international, recently noted that applications from U.S. students to U of T had jumped 80 per cent over the same period last year. Students from several other countries, including Mexico and India, are also applying in much greater numbers. “They want to be part of an institution that values diversity and is interested in creating a global classroom that’s inclusive of people from around the world,” says Sargent.
Over the last two years, U of T has stepped up its U.S. recruitment efforts by increasing the number of school visits, developing communications materials specifically for the U.S. market, and holding a growing number of events in major centres such as Washington and New York City. (This past March, Lorne Michaels [BA 1966 UC], the creator and executive producer of Saturday Night Live, spoke to prospective U of T students at a recruitment event in New York.)
American students currently make up just five per cent of U of T’s international student population. But with 135 million Americans living within a one-hour flight of Toronto, Sargent sees the U.S. as a large potential growth market.
U of T’s two biggest selling points for international students continue to be its excellent reputation for teaching and research and the employability of its graduates, says Sargent. He consistently highlights both qualities as he works to raise U of T’s profile across the globe, build partnerships with other leading institutions and create more international learning experiences for U of T students.
In the current international political climate, Toronto’s reputation for being open to other cultures is giving U of T an additional edge, he says – among students, but also among researchers and faculty. “I think there are going to be opportunities at all levels,” he says. “Getting the best undergraduate students is the key priority, but getting the best graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty members is also crucially important to our mission.”