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CBIE highlights student satisfaction, but housing is a growing concern

Investigating students’ opinions and mapping their experience, the new CBIE International Student Survey revealed a positive picture for the Canadian international education industry.  But some students reported difficulties in finding employment and the report flags up increasing issues in accommodation affordability and accessibility.

97% of international students in the survey would recommend Canada as a study destination. Photo: Andre Furtado/Pexels

Housing was top of mind for respondents, after tuition fees

The analysis, based on the responses of over 14,000 students from 46 institutions from all 10 provinces (31 universities, 12 colleges and three polytechnics), took the pulse of the ever-increasing international student population in the country.

“International students increasingly want to become ‘future citizens'”

An overwhelming majority of international students – about 96% – said they would recommend Canada as a study destination. Satisfaction with the decision to study in Canada is also high across the board: approximately 93% of students stated that they are either satisfied (55%) or very satisfied (38%).

The country’s tolerant and welcoming reputation, its safety and the quality of its education system were the main factors driving students to the country.

While 15% of respondents had already studied in Canada before choosing their institution, about 29% had applied to another country before choosing Canada.

The country’s top competitor was shown to be the US, with over half of this subset of students reporting they had applied to institutions there before applying in Canada. About 20% had applied to British universities instead, and 15% to Australia.

The opportunity to work after their study was deemed essential by 42% of respondents, and very important by 33% – for three in four students, this was a crucial factor in their choice of study destination.

International students increasingly want to become “future citizens,” the survey suggests – 60% flagged up their intention to apply for permanent resident status in Canada, a jump from the 51% in the 2015 survey.

While almost half said they wanted to pursue further education in the country, 70% indicated they were planning to find employment. About 20% said they would work for three years and then return home, 49% said they would seek permanent employment in Canada. Just over half reported having accessed the career services at their institution.

Beyond the well-known beneficial effect of post-study work rights, the possibility to work during their studies is also a major pull factor.

Two in three respondents indicated that the opportunity to work while studying was important, with 29% reporting it was “essential”, with 16% saying that on-campus work was their top source of financial support.

However, only 43% of the students that indicated that working during their studies was important were employed at the time of the survey.

For those unemployed, the major challenge was not having enough work experience. Some students reported other problems that compounded their job-hunting difficulties: a sense of employer discrimination against international work experience, cultural differences and the difficulty of finding time to network.

Housing, one of the largest costs for international students in Canada, was top of mind for the respondents after tuition fees. Just under half of the respondents living in Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, Calgary and Hamilton/ Burlington reported feeling very concerned about being able to cover the cost of their accommodation.

About half of students said that arranging accommodation prior to arrival was problematic, with 15% saying it was “a big problem”.

“In many housing markets during the past few years both affordability and accessibility have decreased, calling for close monitoring of the situation by stakeholders across the international education sector,” the report warned.

Following membership feedback, CBIE added new categories to this edition of its survey, the fifth. One of the new areas of investigation was the experience of international students with dependents, in a bid to offer institutions the chance to reflect on how they can best support their students and their families.

“In many housing markets during the past few years both affordability and accessibility have decreased”

While about 82% reported being single, 18% said they were either married or in a common law relationship and about 7% of respondents said they had children.

Students accompanied by spouses or children were mostly satisfied by the level of support offered by their institution: 57% and 58% indicated satisfaction regarding the institutional support their spouse or their children respectively had received to settle and integrate into the community.

Another area of investigation was international students’ knowledge and appreciation of Indigenous culture. About 46% of respondents said they had learnt about Indigenous history and culture, mostly in the classroom, followed by media and campus events.

CBIE is planning further analysis in the coming months and is launching a longitudinal study of international students’ transition into permanent residency.


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