According to a survey performed in more than 50 nations, Canada has surpassed the United States as the most popular destination for international students.
According to IDP Connect’s fall poll of 3,600 study-visa holders, two out of five international students rank Canada as their top choice for higher education. That’s more than double the percentage that chose the next highest-ranked nations — the United Kingdom, the United States, or Australia.
According to IDP, a majority of students who chose Canada as their top choice cited the possibility to work while studying as a crucial factor, as well as the relative affordability of tuition prices, considering that most of the country’s institutions and colleges are supported by taxpayers.
The Canadian Bureau for International Education reported that 60% of international students in Canada, with more than half coming from India or China, wish to seek to become permanent citizens, which is not a possibility in most nations.
Considering the fierce competition for international students in the West, several experts are wary of Ottawa’s more eye-catching initiatives to cater to the estimated six million students worldwide who study abroad. Professionals in higher education wonder why Canada appears to be the only country that has provided social support payments to foreign students during the Covid-19 pandemic.
They also inquire about Canada’s odd policy of allowing students to work virtually indefinitely while apparently studying. Since the Liberals were elected in 2015, the number of international students in Canada has nearly doubled. Considering Covid border controls, their numbers are rebounding to around 6,00,000 each year.
Many offshore students studied remotely during the pandemic, but the majority have returned to Canadian institutions. International students account for roughly 20% of post-secondary students in Canada, which, together with Australia and the United Kingdom, has the world’s highest proportion. Only 7% of students in the United States are foreign nationals on study visas. They account for only 6% of the European Union’s population.
During the pandemic, Ottawa, which now views international students to be potential prospects for immigration, took the opposite tack from other countries and enabled study visa holders to apply for taxpayer-funded programs like the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also granted international students practically unrestricted access to full-time employment, including for at least three years after graduation. And then, according to the Liberal administration, people can keep their long-term job possibilities even though they haven’t been in the nation. Furthermore, unlike elsewhere, many provinces, such as British Columbia (B.C.), provide nearly-free medical coverage.
British Columbia, which generally has around 22% of all international students in Canada, has the highest concentration, with most of them concentrated in Metro Vancouver, where their presence has an impact on the rental and housing markets. In comparison to Alberta, B.C. has four times the number of international students per capita.
This fall, the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus has nearly 17,000 overseas students, representing around a third of all graduate students and a 1/4th of all undergraduates, similar to previous years. More than a third comes from China, while a fifth comes from India. The remainder is from a variety of countries, including the United States, Korea, and Iran.
Nearly 7,000 international students attend Simon Fraser University, accounting for 26% of undergraduates and 34% of graduate students. Two out of every five people are from China, and one out of every five are from India, with smaller groups from Korea, Iran, and Hong Kong.
Capilano University and Vancouver Island University have a smaller percentage of international students. Moreover, to the Liberal government’s claim that foreign students contribute more than $21 billion to the economy each year, Canadian higher education expert Alex Usher claims that foreign students now account for 45 per cent of fee revenue at the country’s post-secondary schools. This rises from 15% in the early 2000s.
Furthermore, Usher warns against putting too much dependence on international students. When the Covid-19 pandemic originally came into effect, Australia and the United States imposed significantly more regulations on international students than Canada, causing many to return to their home countries.
Unlike Canada, the two English-speaking nations intended to preserve people’s health and were unwilling to provide social aid, medical benefits, and employment to foreign nationals while the native population struggled. As a consequence, roughly 10% of post-secondary faculty and staff in the United States and Australia were laid off.
Despite the fact that the border was closed to practically everyone saves critical personnel at the time, Canada began allowing study visa holders into the nation in October 2020. However, Australia only recently chose to welcome back over 2,00,000 international students.
Many Asian students were worried that instead of paying for online courses from Australia, they would prefer to study in person in Canada and the United States. “I’m shocked Canada has extended welfare (CERB) benefits to overseas students,” said University of Sydney, Prof. Salvatore Babones, who has studied international student policy in Canada and around the world. “It’s an odd judgment, given that most such students must establish financial self-sufficiency before being awarded a study visa,” he added.
While Canada’s generous perks for international students appear to be compassionate, Babones claims that they effectively turn study visas into work visas, requiring beneficiaries to pay “protection money” to educational institutions in exchange for authorization to work.
Chris Friesen of Vancouver, who chairs the umbrella body coordinating settlement assistance for immigrants and refugees in Canada, has claimed that the Canadian public is unaware of how policy has been altered to favour international students.
Friesen thinks Ottawa should establish a royal commission to investigate matters such as whether Canadians agree that foreign students who come from the “cream of the crop” in their home countries should be prioritized for permanent residency.