Though Canadian post-secondary students remain reticent to do any or all of their studies abroad (only two per cent do so during their undergraduate years), the inbound flow of international students far exceeds any of the most optimistic projections for this intellectual migration.
According to data from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), there were 494,525 international students in Canada at all grade levels (elementary to post-graduate) in 2017—75 per cent of them in universities, colleges, and CEGEPs.
Why has Canada become such a magnet for international students?
Certainly the prospect of high-quality education in a safe, secure, and welcoming country has a lot to do with it. But it is also enhanced by federal and provincial government incentives to allow easier routes to permanent residency after graduation, work permits during undergraduate years, broad availability of affordable health insurance options (provincial government-sponsored or private programs), and a welcoming and expanding job market.
According to a recent CBIE survey of over 14,000 international students in all provinces, 96 per cent said they would recommend Canada as a study destination, 75 per cent deemed the opportunity to work after graduation as “very important” or “essential” to their decision to study in Canada, and 60 per cent indicated their intention to become Canadian citizens after graduation—up almost 10 per cent since the 2015 CBIE survey.
Plain and simple, international students increasingly want to become productive, well-employed Canadian citizens. Not a bad objective, for them and Canada.
Where do the international students come from and where do they go?
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) figures, about 65 per cent of all study permit holders in 2017 came from China, India, South Korea, France, and Vietnam; with Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec the top destinations for international students. And though Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal hosted 55 per cent of all international students in 2017, the most impressive growth in 2017 over 2016 occurred outside those big metropolitan areas, in Windsor (up 54 per cent), Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (39 per cent), and St. Catharines/Niagara (27 per cent). IRCC 2018 figures indicate that growth trajectory has been maintained in 2018.
That’s the good news. What’s the downside?
Rising tuitions and fees for international students, who pay far higher rates than Canadian citizens, narrow the edge somewhat in Canada’s competitive posture vis-a-vis other countries, particularly the US, Britain, and Australia.
CBIE data show that 29 per cent of international students who ended up in Canada in 2017 had first applied to colleges and universities in other countries, over half of them failing to gain admission to US schools, 20 per cent to British schools, and 15 per cent to Australian schools.
So it’s clear: this remains a competitive business internationally.
Another key drag on Canada’s lure is the same problem faced by millions of Canadians—finding affordable housing.
While 97 per cent of students responding to the CBIE survey said they felt safe in their accommodations, 79 per cent felt “somewhat” or “very concerned” about being able to cover the cost of their accommodation, and that number jumps to 84 per cent for students in the hothouse realty markets of Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, Calgary, and Hamilton.
Also, 48 per cent of students reported problems first finding and then arranging for a place to live prior to their arrival in Canada.
Despite these logistical problems, 95 per cent of all students surveyed stated they were succeeding in their academic programs, and 70 per cent intended to find work in Canada following the completion of their studies.
Stay tuned: in our next blog post we’ll look at why Canadian students lag behind those of other countries in “going international” for all, or even part, of their educational careers, despite clearly defined advantages for job prospects and earnings in Canada for those with experience studying abroad.
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