Record number of overseas students in Canada

02, December, 2014


Canada hosted a record number of international students in 2013, according to figures in a recent report by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), and a survey reveals half of overseas students are planning to apply for permanent residency in the country.



International students in Canada by year, 2003 to 2013. Source - A World of Learning: Canada's Performance and Potential in International Education 2014, the Canadian Bureau for International Education


A World of Learning: Canada’s Performance and Potential in International Education 2014 is the third annual report produced by CBIE and was released at its 48th annual conference recently.

According to preliminary figures obtained by CBIE from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), there were 293,500 international students on study permits in Canada in 2013, an 11 per cent increase compared with the previous year and 84 per cent more than a decade ago. The figures do not include language school students and exchange students on courses of less than six months.

China was comfortably the top source country with 95,160 students – an 18 per cent increase compared with 2012, while India in second place rose by nine per cent. Almost all of the top 15 source markets registered increases, with notable growth from Nigeria (29 per cent), Russia (24), Vietnam (16) and France (16); students from the latter country benefit from domestic-level tuition fees in Quebec.

The CBIE report also tracks growth in new entrants, and from 2009 to 2013 South Asia increased by 181 per cent, driven by a tripling of India students in this period. CIC has recently reported that a record number of study permits were issued in the first nine months of 2014, suggesting further growth in overall international student numbers is likely.

Also within the report are findings of the CBIE International Student Survey 2014, which was completed by 3,095 students – more than double the previous year’s sample size.

The survey found that 22 per cent of students had progressed to their current course from another educational institution in Canada. Of those, 29 per cent attended a university, 20 per cent attended a language school associated with a university, 15 per cent attended a college, 14 per cent went to a public secondary school, nine per cent progressed via a private secondary school and nine per cent from a language school not associated with a university.

The top reasons for choosing Canada among the respondents to the survey were: Canada’s reputation as a safe country, chosen as essential or very important by 80 per cent; the reputation of the education system (78 per cent); Canada’s tolerant society (76); opportunities for post-study work (67); and cost (64). Approximately 90 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with their decision to study in Canada.

Half of the students completing the survey indicated their intention to apply for permanent residency in Canada, a slight decline compared with 57 per cent in the 2013 survey.

Students from the Sub-Saharan Africa region were the most likely to state an intention to migrate permanently (71 per cent), followed by South Asia (66 per cent) and the MENA region (55 per cent), while those from the USA (22 per cent) and Europe (32 per cent) were the least likely. Of the students that did not state an intention to apply for residency, 41 per cent planned to stay and work for up to three years.

The report notes that there was a 21 per cent increase in the number of Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PWPP) permits and extensions issued in 2013; there was an acceptance rate of more than 95 per cent in the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), in which provinces and territories can nominate individuals for permanent residence; and that an ‘Express Stream’ of the Canada Experience Class (CEC), which allows international students with Canadian degrees and work experience to apply for permanent residency, will be launched in January.

An area of concern raised in the report was the challenge of integrating international students, with 56 per cent of respondents to the International Student Survey stating that they had no Canadian students as friends. Students from the MENA region (28 per cent) and East Asia (31 per cent) had even lower response rates. The CBIE report referred to the International Student Mobility Charter, developed by CBIE and adopted by the European Association for International Education (EAIE), which states, “International students’ integration and interaction with the academic as well as the wider community needs to be actively facilitated to maximise the value for all stakeholders.” 

The report lists a number of perceived barriers to integration as well as enabling factors and calls for further research and resources to be aimed at academic and social adaptation, and also calls for more to be done to promote outbound mobility of Canadian students.

The full report is available for purchase by non-members here.

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