Canada international students
International student numbers in Canada have grown tremendously in recent years. Source: Shutterstock

Recent statistics have revealed that Canada is now the third country in the world with the highest number of international students, after the US and Australia.

Last year, the country saw double-digit growth, reaching 642,000 foreign students and growing 13 percent from the previous year, according to Canada Immigration News.

The country has surpassed the UK, once in the top three study abroad destinations. Currently, there are only currently 485,645 international students enroled in the UK.

In 2019, 404,000 international students obtained study permits in Canada. In comparison, only 276,889 were granted study visas in the UK.

Kareem El-Assal, Director of Policy & Digital Strategy at Canada Immigration, wrote on Canada Immigration News that the country’s international student population has grown six-fold in the past two decades while it has tripled in the past ten years.

This growth is attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, there has been a rise in the global middle-class population in emerging economies such as China and India.

Indian students make up the biggest chunk of international students in Canada, accounting for more than one-third of the total international student body. Chinese students are the second-biggest group of international students in the country.

More parents in these countries are seeking to send their children abroad to improve their English, gain employment and become more competitive in an increasingly globalised world.

Canada is an attractive destination for international students looking for immigration and employment opportunities outside their home country as the government offers relatively easier pathways to post-graduation employment and permanent residence.

This is because Canada lacks skilled labour and talent but has a rapidly growing economy, causing many skill gaps in certain sectors.

Students from India also benefit from government’s Student Direct Stream, an initiative that fast-tracks study permit applications for those from certain countries such as India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Senegal and Morocco.

Another factor for the immense growth in the international student population in Canada could be due to the US’s increasingly hostile immigration policies. The US has seen declining international student enrolment in the past three years.

Visa delays, changes in immigration and work permit policies, strained US-China relations, and subliminal “You are NOT welcome here” messaging are some factors that could explain why many students are turning away from US universities.

At the same time, Canadian colleges and universities have been ramping up international recruitment to compensate for the decreasing number of local students. Canada’s low birth rate in recent decades has resulted in less applicants in the 18-24 age group. This age group has only grown by four percent in the past decade, leading Canadian colleges and universities to depend on international students for revenue.

All these factors have culminated in Canada rising to the top three of leading study abroad destinations. If this trend continues, they could well overtake Australia in coming years which saw 720,150 international students enroled across various sectors as of last September.

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