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Canada int’l recruitment keeps growing, but stakeholders concerned

The international student flow to Canada hasn’t slowed down after a record-breaking 2017, amid rumours that some schools have reached capacity.

Photo: Skeeze/Pixabay

The sector that registered the biggest growth compared to Q1 2017 is the post-secondary, with a 43% increase – 52% in Ontario

A total of 51,020 study permits became effective in Canada in the first quarter of 2018, up from 39,000 in the same period last year, according to IRCC figures– a jump of 28%.

“It is a testament to the success of Canadian institutions’ concerted recruitment efforts”

Study permit holders from India, in particular, have more than doubled, from 6,820 to 14,130.

As for the intended destination, most provinces registered an increase –  36% more students were heading to Ontario than in Q1 last year, 19% more to Quebec and BC, 20% more to Nova Scotia.

“This latest data from IRCC underlines the ongoing recognition of Canada’s high-quality education system, and its reputation as a nation that values diversity and inclusion,” Universities Canada president Paul Davidson told The PIE News.

“It is also a testament to the success of Canadian institutions’ concerted recruitment efforts.”

However, Davidson added, such “heartening” figures must not distract from the fact that the sector needs to focus on outward mobility as well, as only 3% of Canadian university students per year take part in a study abroad experience – or about 11 per cent of undergraduate students over the course of a degree.

“This puts Canada at a disadvantage in the new global economy,” he said.

“Canada needs an ambitious but achievable national strategy to boost the number of Canadian university and college students gaining international experience.”

The sector that registered the biggest growth compared to Q1 2017 is the post-secondary, with a 43% increase – 52% in Ontario.

Applications are up to all post-secondary Designated Learning Institutions in Canada, Sheridan College’s international business development and partnerships manager Gabriela Facchini told The PIE.

She added that applications at Sheridan are around 75% over last year and 100% over two years ago, with most of the programs closed for September 2018 and likely to close soon for January 2019.

“Last September 2017, we turned many students away.  We had more than 500 walk-ins that wanted to study at Sheridan and we had absolutely no programs open for anyone,” Facchini explained.

“I believe that Sheridan is not alone in this scenario.  Most of my colleagues report similar situations at their institutions.”

But despite rumours that many other schools have reached capacity, Facchini thinks the situation and growth is still sustainable.

“Domestic enrolments have been declining anywhere from 1-5% or more at most Canadian higher education institutions. The increase in international enrolment has compensated for this decline,” she said.

Continued sustainability will depend on many external factors, she added. A change in the government in the US taking the country to “pre-Trump” numbers, currency fluctuations, immigration rules changes – many factors could potentially have a downward effect on student numbers, Facchini explained. But change is needed to keep up with the pace of growth and face possible future challenges.

“Canada needs to understand that this moment is temporary and use this time to re-think how they will adapt to future education technology and the needs of students,” Facchini said.

“As public institutions adapt to this increase and create space and new programs to accommodate students, the future of these spaces and programs will depend on how they can adapt to continue to attract students once new realities emerge.”

For Vancouver-based immigration consultant Dave Sage, the growth is driven by “quantity, instead of quality” and this is creating problems for students – not only due to competition for post-study work programs and pathways to residency but also to increasing tuition fees in some institutions.

Domestic fees are usually regulated by the provincial government, while most institutions have complete autonomy over how much they can charge international students, he explained.

“Some schools are seeing a huge bump in revenue and they have got greedy,” he added.

“I’m profoundly distressed and worried by the practice of using international student tuition and recruitment as a driver for quick economic growth.”

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