The scheme reduces processing times for visas, with most applications finalised in less than three weeks according to IRCC.
In order to access the benefits of SDS, prospective students need to provide additional information to show they meet language proficiency and financial requirements.
For example, they need to submit proof they have reached a score of at least 6 in IELTS and have a guaranteed investment certificate of CA$10,000.
The expansion of the scheme meets the Canadian government’s goal of attracting students from a more diverse range of country, IRCC stated.
“There is a high demand for higher education in Canada from… Pakistani students”
“By expanding the SDS to prospective students from Pakistan, IRCC is encouraging a more diverse range of students to choose Canada,” an IRCC spokesperson told The PIE News.
The industry, whose focus on diversification was made urgent by events such as the Saudi crisis in 2018, welcomed the development and expressed hope the scheme will be expanded further.
“This is very much a welcome development and we are pleased to see IRCC’s efforts trying to help more international students access our higher education system… it certainly supports broader priorities in our sector around diversification,” Universities Canada assistant director of international relations Cindy McIntyre told The PIE.
“There’s recognition in the sector that there is a high demand for higher education in Canada from a large cohort of Pakistani students, so I think that does make sense,” she added, explaining that the organisation’s latest data showed that about 2,400 Pakistani students were enrolled in Canadian universities in 2016/17, making the country the 9th largest source.
President and CEO of CICan Denise Amyot agreed that there is an increasing demand for international education from Pakistani students.
“As more and more young Pakistanis look overseas to pursue their education, we are confident this will make Canadian colleges and institutes all the more attractive,” she said.
“We also hope that this will be a step towards further expansion of the Study Direct Stream, which could benefit many other countries, including francophone markets.”
Pakistan was the 19th largest nationality for student visa holders in Canada by December 2018, according to IRCC figures, and the 47th source countries for language schools.
At Languages Canada, the organisation’s executive director Gonzalo Peralta welcomed the development but called on the government to recognise the needs of the private sector members, which have registered a lower growth last year compared to the public sector.
“Although Pakistan is a very minor source country for language students to Canada, we are fully behind government policies that support student mobility and our educational institutions,” Peralta said.
Peralta added that he would like to see the program address the needs of the country’s private sector members and to support the diversification of its international language student population.
“While our public sector members have benefited from SDS, accredited and designated private sector members have not had the same access,” he explained.
“And because diversification is such an important strategy for our sector, it would benefit Canada if the program were available in its appropriate form in other regions of the world.”
Another industry source who wished to remain anonymous told The PIE that while Pakistan could be a “curious choice” since it sends lower numbers of students compared to other sources, it may be the sign that more additions are to come.
“I would imagine that countries sending higher percentages of students (such as South Korea at 4.2% of the total) might be a higher priority to arrange the SDS program,” they said.
“Pakistan is a bit of a curious choice”
“Pakistan is a bit of a curious choice, but I wonder if that is just the first of more to come.”
The IRCC spokesperson said that indeed the department had a commitment to looking at expanding SDS to additional countries in the future.
Last year, IRCC told The PIE that it was looking at expanding in Africa, in line with the department’s focus on attracting more French-speaking students to Canada.
At Languages Canada’s conference earlier this year, a representative said the scheme would be extended globally by April, but an IRCC spokesperson said in an email to The PIE that no changes had been officially announced.