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Permanent residency drives 50% of internationals in Canada

Half of Canada’s international students intend to apply for permanent residence, according to a new report published by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE). This is helping fuel a rise in international student enrolments to Canada.

Panel discussion at CBIE's annual conference in Ottawa. L-R: Anne Buller, CBIE Boar Chair; Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce; Karen McBride, CBIE President and CEO; Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary General, International Association of Universities.

When asked why they chose to travel to Canada, safety (80%), the quality of its education system (78%) and a tolerant and non-discriminatory society (76%) were among the top answers

As well as the high interest in permanent residence, the report, A World of Learning, based on a survey of some 3,000 students, shows that 55% intend to pursue further study in the country once they have completed their current study programme.

But it also uncovered a failure to integrate among some internationals – half the students surveyed said they had made no Canadian friends.

Canada has seen a 22.8% growth in international student numbers between 2011 and 2013 (to 293,505), and signal of these longer-term student ambitions paint a forward-looking picture of inbound growth for the country’s international education industry.

“Canada is not a well kept secret any more,” CBIE’s CEO and President Karen McBride commented when presenting the findings at CBIE’s annual conference in Ottawa.

McBride stressed the importance of listening to international students’ needs, noting that the most common recommendation they gave was to encourage more in-classroom integration between domestic and foreign students.

She said that this should be viewed as part of Canada’s strategy for internationalisation, which should not focus only on recruitment and retention, but “be framed in terms of Canada’s own Global Engagement Challenge”.

Russia, up 24%, is in Canada’s top 15 markets for the first time

Those who participated in the survey were enrolled at 25 universities, colleges, institutes and polytechnics across the country. “This group of institutions is diverse and representative of the Canadian post-secondary landscape, yielding data that CBIE believes to be relevant across the sector,” stated CBIE.

An impressive 90% of survey respondents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their study abroad experiences, and 61% said they would recommend Canada as a study destination.

The report highlights the discrepancy between incoming and outgoing student numbers, noting that only an estimated 3% of Canadian students pursue study abroad, and calls for more support through international partnerships and scholarships.

The government must treat education abroad for Canadian students as “a strategic imperative for our country”, noted McBride.

Half the students surveyed said they had made no Canadian friends

Drilling down on the data in the report, China, South Korea, India, Saudi Arabia contributed 59% of total incoming students, and 71% came from the top 10 source countries, showing little change since the previous year.

However, international student numbers are climbing in particular markets, which could prompt a shift in the traditional balance: most notably Nigeria, which saw a 29% spike between 2012 and 2013, and Russia, up 24%, placing it in Canada’s top 15 markets for the first time.

Conversely, students coming from South Korea, which was once the top source country for Canada, have fallen by 16% in the last two years.

When asked why they chose to travel to Canada, safety (80%), the quality of its education system (78%) and a tolerant and non-discriminatory society (76%) were among the top answers.

Interestingly, the number of students who said they selected Canada as their destination country before deciding on a specific institution has fallen slightly, from 60% in 2013 to 55.5% in 2014.

This could be down to the growing prevalence of global academic rankings or the success of individual institutions’ marketing strategies, the report suggests.

Cost was the largest worry for international students, with 85% saying they were either very or somewhat concerned about the cost of studying in Canada, followed by accommodation.

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