International Students Increasingly Important to Canada’s Higher Education Institutions

Canadian colleges and universities are increasingly luring international students to study in Canada – especially those from China – a Statistics Canada study reveals.

China is the main source of international students to Canada’s higher education institution, with more than fifty percent of all international students from China.

During the last decade that closed at the end of the 2018-19 academic session, the growth in the number of international students attending Canadian colleges and universities far surpasses the growth in the number of Canadian students.

“Enrolments for Canadian students in formal higher education increased by 10.9 per cent, from 1,486,602 to 1,648,923. Over the same period, the number of foreign students more than tripled, from 101,304 … to 318,153.”

That’s led to a growth in the proportion of foreign students attending Canadian higher education institutions, from 6.4 percent during the 2008-09 school year to 16.2 percent ten years later.

International students accounted for fifty-seven percent of the total growth in academic programs at Canadian higher institutions during that time.

That’s been a blessing for the bottom line of these higher education institutions because international students pay much higher tuition than domestic students.

“Previous analysis reveals that the reliance of Canadian universities on tuition as a revenue source has grown over the last decade and that international students, who pay substantially higher tuition fees than Canadian students, are an important element of this growth, contributing an estimated forty (40) per cent of all tuition fees and accounting for about $4 billion in annual revenue for Canadian universities in 2018-19,” reads the report.

Three scenarios developed by Statistics Canada of the possible impacts of the Covid-19 travel restrictions this year paint a bleak picture for Canadian higher education institutions.

A decline in international student enrolment of only thirty (13) percent this year could cost these educational higher institutions $377 million from those lost tuitions alone.

A more serious drop of fifty-eight (58) percent in the number of international students at Canadian institutions – even with the number of domestic students remaining stable – would spell a loss of $3.4 billion in revenues.

Yet another scenario offered by the statistic Canada is a mixed bag of a more moderate drop in international student enrolment of thirty-two (32) percent accompanied by a drop in domestic students of twenty (20) percent.

“In this case, the projected financial losses could amount to $3.1 billion or seven (7) per cent of projected revenues,” notes the report.

The actual impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international student enrollments this year is still unknown.

But foreign students are important for more than just the revenues they bring to Canadian universities.

“International students promotes and enhances the social and cultural diversity of Canadian campuses,” states the report. “In addition, while contributing to the local economy when studying in Canada, students provide the country with a large pool of well-educated people who could contribute to Canada’s workforce and obtain Canadian permanent residency.

The most common fields of study for international students are public administration, business, management. The humanities have seen an overall decline in enrolments of twenty percent over the decade that ended in May last year.

Public administration, Business, and management is consistently the major field of study for both domestic and international students with much of the growth in these programs driven by international student enrollments.

During the decade, the number of international student enrollments in these fields increased by 216.5 percent, far surpassing the increase in the number of Canadian students at eight (8) percent.

Canadian students were more likely to increase the growth in the healthcare sector during that decade than were international students. During that decade, Canadian students accounted for 86.2 percent of the growth in those fields.

International students attending approved post-secondary institutions can travel to Canada under a COVID-19 travel restriction exemption in place since October. 20, 2020.

To be allowed to enter Canada, international students approved for a study permit must be attending a Designated Learning Institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their provincial government.

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