Canada hosted over 800,000 international students in 2022 – an increase of almost a third in one year, according to new government data.
In December, there were 807,750 study permit holders in Canada, which was approximately 190,000 more than in 2021. The latest data outnumber Canada’s aim of 450,000 foreign students by 2022, which was stated in the country’s international education policy in 2014.
In what Canadian immigration termed as a “record-breaking year” for visa applications, IRCC issued 551,405 new study permits in 2022, a 24% increase over 2021.
Despite government promises to address existing backlogs, Canada struggled to keep up with a surge of applications. After months of delays, IRCC announced in November that study permits were mainly returning to regular 60-day processing times.
While the country’s growth continued to increase, 41% (226,450) of these went to Indian students. Since 2019, when 58,435 study licenses were awarded to this cohort, the number of Indians has nearly doubled.
China was the second-largest source country for international students in 2022, with 52,165 licenses issued, down from 55,900 the previous year. This represents a steady decrease from pre-pandemic levels of 84,155 permits issued in 2019.
There were 319,130 Indian study permit holders in Canada, followed by 100,075 Chinese study permit holders. The Philippines (32,455), France (27,135), Nigeria (21,660), and Korea were also among the top source countries (16,505).
The increase was “not surprising,” according to Alain Roy, vice president international partnerships at Colleges and Institutes Canada, considering the easing of pent-up demand following the pandemic.
Canada “continues to be attractive,” Roy continued, “with its openness to diversity, inexpensive excellent education, and the possibilities that exist to obtain work experience during and after their studies. According to what our members are saying, this year’s increase has been reasonable.”
“It’s true that this increased foreign student demand, along with a number of other variables, has placed renewed strain on the capacity of the primary destination cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver – and in other places that have also undergone strong expansion.
“Colleges and institutes have mostly prepared for this, preparing seat availability and scaling up student services,” he said.
Ontario was the most popular study destination, accounting for 52% (289,835) of all new permits awarded to this region in 2022, followed by British Columbia, which accounted for 19% of total 2022 permits. Nearly half of all international students in Canada (411,985) had permits related to Ontario institutions.
Other provinces, like New Brunswick, Alberta, and Nova Scotia, have made new efforts to entice foreign students away from Canada’s most populated province.
The surge “underscores Canada’s strong and continuing positioning as a highly valued location for learning,” said Larissa Bezo, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education.
“The international education community remains committed to providing our students with a high-quality and supportive learning environment that allows them to achieve their personal, academic, and professional goals,” Bezo added.
“But the current global setting and increased interest has generated complicated problems and administrative backlogs in processing timelines,” she continued.
The majority of permits were awarded at the higher education level, but the k-12 sector showed increase as well, with 82,000 study permits issued at the secondary level or below, up from 63,745 in 2021.
However, the influx of international students has raised concerns in some parts of the international education sector, with critics warning that the country may not be able to accommodate the number of permanent residency applications from international students that will likely enter the pipeline in the coming years.
Similarly, inexpensive accommodation is scarce in various parts of Canada, with some students falling prey to scams.
“Institutions could certainly continue to take students indefinitely,” said Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Consultants. “The question is whether towns have the capacity to tolerate that many temporary residents. And the answer is that they do not. At least not in Ontario, where the majority of the rise is taking place.”
CICan has been collaborating with “local and provincial authorities to address the availability of affordable housing for incoming students,” according to Roy.
“In 2022, colleges and institutes organized different local and regional summits and roundtables to create plans to continue to give a superior experience to overseas students,” he said.
|Canada’s 2019-24 international education strategy aimed to diversify the country’s student base, naming 11 priority countries for recruitment.
The latest data shows growth in nine of these regions, with significant increases in some areas, including the Philippines where student numbers jumped from 14,365 to 25,380.
French students dipped from 20,020 in 2021 to 16,725, despite Canada’s Francophone immigration strategies.
The number of students coming from Turkey also fell from 3,870 in 2021 to 3,220 in 2022.
Over 5,000 more students came from Ukraine, presumably in part linked to the ongoing war, although the country was selected as a target region before the Russian invasion.
There were modest increases across Latin America, with Brazil, Colombia and Mexico all hitting the 10,000 students mark.
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