New figures show a significant increase in the number of international students enrolling in Canadian universities for the 2017/2018 academic year. Many stakeholders have attributed this increase to the growing perception of Canada as a stable and welcoming study destination in the wake of various political events worldwide. In recent months, increasing numbers of international students are choosing to study in Canada, and immigrate after graduation.
Canada is a top-ten study destination worldwide, in terms of hosting international students. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of study permits that become effective each year more than doubled. In 2008, a total of 128,411 study permits became effective – in 2016, this figure was 267,780.
By the end of 2016, there were more than 414,000 active study permits — although the actual number of international students in Canada differs from this figure, as some study permit holders may not currently be in Canada, and many international students study in Canada without a study permit.
Many news sites have reported a recent surge in interest in Canada as an immigration destination, often attributed to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, and this interest extended to Canada as a study destination.
At the University of Toronto, more than double the number of American students accepted their admission offers for 2017, compared with 2016. Brock University saw an increase of 30 percent in applications from international students, and in the early stages of the admissions cycle, there has also been an increase of 36 percent in the number of international students accepting their admission offer.
The latest data for 2017 from the University of Alberta International shows that applications to graduate programs from foreign nationals rose 82 percent overall, with significant increases in the numbers of Americans (+60 percent), Indians (+152 percent) and Iranians (+196 percent) applying. At the undergraduate level, overall international applications were up 27 percent, compared to a growth rate of 11 percent at this time in 2016.
“We welcome a growing interest in studying in Canada and expect this development to be more than a one year anomaly – we expect to see strong numbers also in the coming years,” stated Julia Jones-Bourque, Marketing & Communications Manager at the University of Alberta.
Chris Mota, university spokesperson for Concordia University, said, “we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve seen steady increases over the years, so our enrolment has never been an issue. But this year it’s going to be higher.” Concordia University, based in downtown Montreal, has seen increases of up to 325 percent in the number of undergraduate applications received from certain countries — including Mexico (+325 percent), Iran (+317 percent), and India (+233 percent).
“These are countries [whose students] may have considered other parts of the world but now are thinking you know what, maybe I’ll give Canada a try,” Mota noted.
“Canada provides a level of stability and comfort, we’re ranked well, we’re a safe country, by and large, so it’s moved its way up as a destination of choice.”
International graduates of Canadian institutions may obtain a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) after their studies, allowing them to work anywhere in Canada, for any employer, for up to three years. The PGWP program was created in order to attract international students to Canada, and few countries with equivalent education systems offer such open and advantageous work opportunities to international graduates.
The growth in the number of PGWPs issued each year has seen a significant increase. At the end of 2008, there were approximately 15,600 PGWP holders. By the end of 2016, there were more than 101,000.
Work experience gained on a PGWP can contribute towards an international graduate’s eligibility for permanent immigration programs, and can provide a way to remain in Canada and work while an application for permanent residence is in process.
The success of Canada’s immigration system with regards to enabling international students to remain after graduation is clear — more than 30,000 former study permit holders became permanent residents in 2016. Of these, the majority (more than 75 percent) entered as economic immigrants, meaning they were not sponsored by a family member, spouse, or common-law partner, and did not enter through refugee/humanitarian programs.
The Canadian government’s willingness to welcome international graduates as new Canadian permanent residents has been supported by policy changes. On November 19, 2016, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced additional points under the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) for candidates in the Express Entry pool with a Canadian educational credential. These changes have served to make international graduate candidates more competitive in the Express Entry pool.
|Level of education||Additional CRS points|
|One- or two-year post-secondary program||15|
|Post-secondary program of three years or more, or Master’s, Doctoral, or eligible entry-to-practice professional degree||30|
Over the first three months following the changes, 46 percent of ITAs were issued to international graduates, compared to an average of 31 percent before the changes.
Of the 55,475 candidates in the Express Entry pool as of January 19, 2017, 14 percent had a Canadian educational credential. The median score of these international graduate candidates was 423, compared to a median score of 373 among candidates without a Canadian educational credential. Considering the latest Express Entry draw saw a record low CRS score requirement of 415, it is clear to see that these candidates benefit greatly from their Canadian educational experience when it comes to their position in the Express Entry pool.
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