CBICI 2023 International Student and Graduate Survey Report

Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration (CBICI)’s 2023 survey report sheds light on the retention challenges faced by international students in Cape Breton.​ The survey highlights the importance of addressing issues related to housing and employment in order to improve the settlement and retention of international students in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM).​

CBICI conducts yearly international student and international graduate surveys, as a part of a larger feedback and evaluation mechanism. The surveys were created to compare the international student experience in 2019 and 2023, and to expand on the 2019 data collected to better gauge program offerings to serve the international student population.  Significant time was invested in developing quantitative measures based on 2019 survey questions and responses, engaging students via focus groups, and conducting a literature review to provide context for the 2023 survey results. Student outreach was conducted on campus at CBU and at the Cineplex Cinemas satellite campus. The survey results, in tandem with feedback on workshops and tours from students, have informed both the international student project’s program delivery to date and the development of the future programming.

One of the key findings of the survey is the housing crisis faced by international students in Cape Breton.​ The vacancy rate in the region is extremely low, making it difficult for students to find affordable and suitable accommodation.​ Many students reported dissatisfaction with access to housing, citing issues such as high rent, overcrowding, and substandard living conditions. ​ The lack of affordable housing options poses a significant barrier to the long-term settlement of international students in Cape Breton. ​

Another major challenge identified in the survey is limited employment opportunities for international students.​ Many students expressed frustration with the lack of job prospects in their field of study, leading to difficulties in finding meaningful employment. ​ The survey also revealed that there are significant gaps in employment support for international students in their first year and a half of studies, leading to difficulties entering the local job market.​ Addressing these employment challenges is crucial for the successful integration and retention of international students in Cape Breton. ​

Based on the survey findings, CBICI has put forward several recommendations to improve the settlement and retention of international students in Cape Breton. ​ These recommendations include:​

  1. Investing in a full-time housing compliance officer in the CBRM to address substandard housing conditions and ensure compliance with rental standards.​
  2. Temporarily removing the requirement for a meal plan for international students at Cape Breton University (CBU) seeking on-campus housing to alleviate financial burdens.​
  3. Actively reviewing and implementing recommendations from the Affordable Housing and Homelessness Working Group to address the housing crisis in the region.​
  4. Amending the NS Department of Health and Wellness health coverage policies to allow coverage for single study permit holders from the date of arrival in Nova Scotia.​
  5. Expanding eligibility criteria for settlement services at the provincial and federal levels to provide support for temporary residents, including international students.​

The survey conducted by CBICI highlights the challenges faced by international students in Cape Breton and emphasizes the need for immediate action to improve housing and employment opportunities. ​ By addressing these issues and implementing the recommended solutions, Cape Breton can create a more welcoming and supportive environment for international students, leading to increased retention and long-term settlement in the region.

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