Last Updated on August 3, 2021
International students were increasingly attracted to Ontario during the two decades that ended in the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic even as their total number in Canada more than tripled during the period, a study reveals.
In it, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) show the central Canadian province’s share of international students jumped from 37 per cent in the early 2000s to almost half, 49 per cent, during the 2015 to 2019 period.
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Ontario’s gain, though, was British Columbia’s loss.
“As the province attracting the second-largest number of international students, British Columbia saw its share fall from 31 per cent in the 2001-to-2004 period to 23 per cent in the 2015-to-2019 period,” note the authors of ‘International Students As A Source Of Labour Supply: The Growing Number Of International Students And Their Changing Sociodemographic Characteristics’.
IRCC Sees International Students As Crucial Source of New Permanent Residents
Canadian immigration officials consider international students to be an important future source of skilled labour in Canada, as they may be eligible for permanent residency through immigration programs after graduation.
“Attracting students from a wide diversity of countries, as well as to a variety of regions and programs, fosters sustainable growth in Canada’s international education sector and distributes benefits across the country,” notes the IRCC.
In the two decades that ended in 2019, the number of first-time study permit holders more than tripled, increasing from 70,000 annually to 250,000. Most of them came to study at Canadian colleges and universities in bachelor’s and masters’ programs.
Prior to the pandemic, international students coming to Canada were coming in increasingly greater numbers almost every year.
The share of first-time study permit holders for college programs grew from 28 per cent in the 2000-to-2004 period to 34 per cent in the 2015-to-2019 period.
The share of those going to master’s programs grew by 50 per cent, while the percentage of those intending to take bachelor’s and master’s programs stayed about the same.
International Students Favour Business, Management, Public Administration Programs
The most common fields of study for international students are business, management and public administration.
The growth in international students coming to Canada has been a boon for the bottom line of educational institutions because these students pay much higher tuition than Canadian students.
“Previous analysis has shown that the reliance of universities on tuition as a revenue source has grown over the past decade and that international students are an important element of this growth, contributing an estimated 40 per cent of all tuition fees and accounting for almost $4 billion in annual revenue for Canadian universities in 2018-19,” states a previous IRCC report.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the number of international students in Canada.
As a result of the shutdowns and travel restrictions, the number of international students whose study permits became effective in 2020 decreased by 36 per cent relative to the 2019 level.
The sociodemographic composition of international students might also have changed since the main source countries were affected by the pandemic differently, the study notes.
China, Japan, US Among Most Important Source Countries
Seven countries – South Korea, China, Japan, the United States, France, Mexico and India – remained among the top 10 source countries over the two decades that ended in 2019.
The total share of international students from these countries also grew when taken as a group, from 59 per cent in the 2000-to-2004 period to 67 per cent in the 2015-to-2019 period.
The United Kingdom, Taiwan and Germany made up the rest of the top 10 sources for the 2000-to-2004 period, replaced by Brazil, Nigeria and Vietnam for the 2015-to-2019 period.
International students are important for more than just the revenues they bring to Canadian colleges and universities.
“International students increase the social and cultural diversity of campuses,” states a report. “In addition, while contributing to the local economy when studying in Canada, international students provide the country with a large pool of well-educated individuals who could contribute to Canada’s workforce and obtain permanent residency.
“According to a study that examined the rate of transition into permanent residence, almost one-third of international students with a bachelor’s degree and almost half of those with a master’s degree became permanent residents in the 10 years after their first study permit was issued.”
To be allowed into 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 or territorial government.