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International Students Enrolment Continues To Soar In Canada

Recent statistics Canada report shows the performance of international students at Canadian universities and colleges.

Before COVID-19 forced learning online, international students were enrolling in post-secondaries in Canada more than three times the rate of domestic students.

A recent Statistics Canada report looks into student enrolment pre-pandemic as a way to assess the coronavirus impact on international students. Researchers used the 2018/2019 academic session as the benchmark to measure how enrolment and graduation have been affected, particularly for students.

That year, over 2.1 million students were enrolled at Canadian post-secondaries, up 1.8 per cent from the 2017 academic session. These gains were entirely due to international students enrolment, which soared by 16.2 percent. That same year, enrolment by domestic students dropped 0.5 per cent.

Most of these enrolments were informal programs, only nine (9) percent were in courses outside a formal program such as personal interest or continuing education.

International students enrolment more than triple within a decade

Between the 2008 and 2018 academic years, international students enrolment grew from upwards of 101,000 to more than 318,000. Domestic student enrolments in formal programs increased by 10.9 percent in the same period.

This resulted in the percentage of international students at Canadian universities and colleges increasing from 6.4 percent to 16.2 percent, and represents 57.2 percent of the total growth in all program enrolments.

Canadian post-secondaries rely more on tuition for funding

As revenue from provincial governments declines, Canadian post-secondaries have increasingly relied on international student tuition as a source of income, according to a Statistics Canada report. The share of revenues from tuition fees soared by 4.7 percent between 2013 and 2018.

International students pay higher tuition fees than Canadian students. As a result of higher fees and enrolment growths, international students contributed about forty (40) percent of all tuition fees or $4 billion across Canadian post-secondaries in the 2018 academic session.

Furthermore, international students drove growth in enrolments in public administration, business, and management programs over the ten (10) year period leading up to 2018. The proportion of international students studying in these fields increased by more than 200 per cent, whereas domestic student enrolment only grew about 7.7 per cent.

Canadian students are more likely to work in health-related fields, with sixteen percent of all Canadian enrolments choosing these fields. Only 5.1 per cent of all international students chose these health-related fields in 2018.

Looking to the future

Although the long-term impact of coronavirus pandemic on international students is years away, Statistics Canada notes that their participation is very important for many reasons.

“Not only does international students tuition revenue contribute to the viability of some courses and programs, international students enhances the social and cultural diversity of campuses,” the report says.

International students also contribute to the domestic economy as they live and study in Canada, and provide a large pool of highly educated people who can contribute to the workforce and become permanent residents.

Almost one third of international students who graduated with Canadian bachelor’s degrees and almost half of international students who got master’s degrees became permanent residents in the ten (10) years after they got their first study permit.

Statistics Canada is constantly monitoring these data as they become available in a post-COVID world. They will provide insights into the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on student enrolments and shifts in fields of study.