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Greater Montréal is the world’s top draw for foreign students

The Economist Intelligence Unit and the Bank of Communications have just published the Sea Turtle Index, which compares the attractiveness of 80 cities worldwide when it comes to receiving international undergraduate students. Greater Montréal ranks 1st, while London and Hong Kong came in 2nd and 3rd place.

In Chinese culture, a “sea turtle” is a graduate of an overseas university who reaps the benefits of a top-rate global education and immersion in another culture, then returns to his or her home country.

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, Greater Montréal’s environment is especially open to international students and their families. In addition to the quality of education, Greater Montréal benefits from policies that encourage immigration and offers good opportunities for employment after graduation. Its openness to foreign investors and its cultural diversity also boost its attractiveness as a destination for international undergraduates.

To determine the overall index (out of 100) for each metropolitan region considered in the study, The Economist Intelligence Unit considered five major categories that come into play when choosing an educational location for international students. The five categories are as follows:

1. Educational returns: how highly valued the education is elsewhere in the world, balanced against whether it represents good value for money

2. Financial returns: how open the investment environment is to non-nationals, and how high are policy, economic and currency volatility risks that may affect returns on investments

3. Real estate returns: the potential of the local real estate market, the likely returns on investment in the form of rent and how taxes will affect those returns

4. Work experience: the openness of the local job market to overseas skilled applicants and whether the local economy offers high-pay, low-tax opportunities

5. Social experience: whether students are exposed to world-class cultural experiences and can study among a truly multicultural student body

Metropolitan Montréal ranked 1st, tying with London, for social experience, and came in 4th for work experience and 6th for educational returns.

In 2010, more than 4.1 million graduate students were enrolled outside their country of citizenship, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Students who want to study abroad face a staggering choice of locations. Studying abroad provides an outstanding opportunity for students to gain access to the best educational systems, expand their horizons, learn a foreign language, widen their network of contacts, gain a better understanding of cultures and business practices in the world and improve their career prospects. Furthermore, studying abroad can also be a springboard to immigration and is thus much sought after.

This is great news for Greater Montréal. It confirms the city’s growing attractiveness to international students and foreign strategic talent in general. According to Québec’s ministry of education*, more than 20,000 international students chose to study in Greater Montréal in 2010. According to Statistics Canada (2013), Greater Montréal was the top Canadian destination for international students in 2010.

* Ministère de l’éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS)

Note: The weighting given to each of the five indicator categories in the Sea Turtle Index study varies. The “Educational returns” category received the highest weighting (40%).

Mathieu Lefort, Senior Analyst, Direction of Economic Studies, Montréal International

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