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Canada: international students up 8% but growth slowing

The number of international students in Canada rose by 8% in 2014/15, top line figures from the Canadian Bureau of International Education’s latest state of the market report show. However, the figures indicate that progress has been dented by challenges in key source markets and slowing growth overall.

CBIE's A World of Learning report on international students in Canada.“Canada is not a top-tier global destination for foreign students" but it could be, said Governor General David Johnston. Photo: The PIE News.

India was also the fastest growing student source market this year, up 28%

A World of Learning, which uses data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, shows that 353,000 international students studied in Canada in the 2014/15 academic year, with three-quarters in postsecondary education.

However, year-on-year growth was lower than the 10% bump seen the previous year.

China remained the top source country, accounting for 118,915 students, or 34% of the total, followed by India, which accounted for 14% of international students in Canada. India was also the fastest growing student source market this year – up 28% to 38,705 students.

International students in Canada: CBIE's A World of Learning 2016.

Source: A World of Learning 2016.

India and China were the only two countries with double-digit percentage shares of the total number of inbound students. France and South Korea each accounted for 6% of the total, with Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the US each accounting for 3%.

Among last year’s growth markets, Brazil saw the biggest change, with a dramatic turnaround from 15% growth in 2014 to a 16% drop in 2015, largely owing to cutbacks to the Scientific Mobility Program.

And from Saudi Arabia, last year’s 4% growth in incoming students has been stymied by curtailments to the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, leading to a 13% drop in students in 2015.

“Tighter eligibility requirements for KASP likely has contributed to declining numbers”

“Tighter eligibility requirements [for KASP] implemented in early 2016 – including a cap on pre-academic language studies and the stipulation that students study at one of the world’s top 100 universities or one of the world’s top 50 academic programmes in their field – likely has also contributed to declining numbers,” the study notes.

The pace of growth also slowed in what appeared to be rapidly expanding student markets in 2014, including France, which dropped from 15% to 8% growth in 2015, and Vietnam, which was up just 3% last year, compared to 16% the previous year.

An increase in student fees in Quebec for French students could be one reason why student numbers climbed less rapidly in 2014/15 than 2013/14, according to Janine Knight-Grofe, research manager at CBIE.

“As of last year, French students in Quebec have to pay the same tuition fees as Canadians from elsewhere in Canada, as opposed to the Quebec fee, which was much lower,” she told The PIE News.

Ontario continues to draw the largest number of international students – 151,755 or 44% of the total – followed by British Columbia, with 95,035, and Quebec, with 49,455.

Growth has slowed slightly in Nigeria, allowing it to be surpassed as the fastest growing student market by India. However, the report shows appetite for study in Canada is still booming, with Nigerian students up 20% on 2014 (after a 25% increase the year before).

After India and Nigeria, the fastest growing student source markets were China (+11%), Hong Kong (+9%), France (+8%), South Korea (+5%), and Japan (+5%).

“More Canadian students abroad will help to raise our profile and attract more international students”

Speaking at the annual CBIE conference in Ottawa this week, Canada’s Governor General David Johnston said the figures indicate that although international student figures are climbing, “Canada is not a top-tier global destination for foreign students.”

However, he emphasised that Canada is capable of competing at a higher level on the world stage and that more international students would benefit the country.

He drew a correlation between inbound and outbound student mobility, noting: “More Canadian students abroad will help to raise our profile and build global networks, which can only help us attract more international students and talent.”

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