While the rich history and warm friendship of Irish-America is well known, a lesser-known fact is that Canada actually has a higher proportion of people who claim Irish heritage than the US does.
In fact, more than 4.5 million Canadian residents claim an ethnic connection to Ireland – and they greatly value our long intertwined history and deep-rooted friendship.
It’s no surprise then that Canada is the fourth largest market for international students studying in Ireland (following the US, China and India). The number of Canadian students coming here increased by almost 70pc in the five years before the pandemic, and interest continues to develop in Ireland as a world-class destination for Canadian students who are keen to study abroad.
Encouraging more international students to study in Ireland is a crucial strategic goal for higher education institutions. Not only do international exchanges and study abroad programmes help to enrich our student experience, build cross-cultural links, share best practices, but they also promote programme and research development.
Through the ‘Education in Ireland' programme, Enterprise Ireland works to promote Irish universities overseas. And this includes working actively towards expanding our educational partnerships in countries such as Canada.
There are over 135 agreements between Irish and Canadian colleges – and Canadian students are studying for careers in medicine, dentistry, business, engineering and science in Ireland.
Technological universities from Ireland and British Columbia signed four new agreements during the recent British Columbia International Education Week in late June, with three involving Atlantic Technological University (ATU). The first agreement, between ATU and Vancouver Community College, focuses particularly on collaboration in the disciplines of culinary arts, gastronomy and tourism.
The second, with Selkirk College, primarily aims to enable Canadian students to complete their degree in ATU, especially in creative and cultural courses . The final agreement signed by ATU was with Douglas College and it seeks to develop virtual collaborations leading to in-person foreign-study opportunities.
Munster Technological University and Camosun College signed the fourth agreement, which also focused on student and staff exchanges, and further collaboration in disciplines such as biological sciences, environmental science, chemical engineering, cybersecurity and civil engineering.
And Irish-Canadian co-operation surpasses institutional links. During his June visit to Canada, Niall Collins – Minister of State in the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science – signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his counterpart minister in British Columbia, Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education & Skills Training.
This signing was historic in that it was not only the first MoU of its type between BC and Ireland, but also the first for higher education between British Columbia and the EU.
The agreement will allow for further post-secondary development and research to be completed, while strengthening the existing ties between British Columbia and Ireland. These signings represent a continuation of our extensive efforts to develop Ireland as a destination for Canadian students.
When it comes to education, Ireland has thrived in other ways in Canada too. Irish e-learning and learning and development clients that have enjoyed success in the Canadian market include Leading Edge, Intuition, Skillpad, LearnUpon, Digitary (now acquired) and Pulse Learning.
While education is a priority sector, Canada is a crucial market for Irish companies and organisations in general.
In 2021, Enterprise Ireland clients exported €394m to Canada – an increase of 14pc on 2020. Exports were across digital technologies, fintech and financial services, industrial technologies and life sciences.
With Enterprise Ireland offices in Toronto and Montréal, our team in Canada is available to support Irish enterprises to start, scale and grow. For more information about entering the market, please visit www.enterprise-ireland.com.
Shaun Ryan is an education market executive with Enterprise Ireland