Canadian universities
Canadian universities are popular among international students, and more universities in Ontario are reopening to international students. Source: Cole Burston/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Here’s some welcome news for international students — more Canadian universities have been added into the country’s list of approved Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) that are permitted to welcome international students during the pandemic. A DLI is a school, university or college that is allowed to host international students. Some of the prominent universities in Ontario — a popular province among foreign students — that are already in the list include the University of Waterloo, Ryerson University, OCAD University and the University of Windsor.

Other institutions in the province that were added to the list this month include Emmanuel College of Victoria University, Herzing College, International Test Pilot School, Knox College, North American Business College of Sciences & Languages, Redeemer University College, Regis College, Sprott Shaw Language College, St. Augustine’s Seminary of Toronto (Scarborough and Toronto campuses), University of St. Michael’s College, University of Trinity College and Wycliffe College. Almost 40 institutions in British Columbia and seven in Alberta were added to the list this month. 

The Canadian government reopened the country’s borders to international students from Oct. 20, 2020 if their DLI has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place. “If a DLI on the list has multiple campuses, all campuses in that province or territory are included in the DLI’s approval,” it said. Students must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. As of Dec. 21, 2020, the list includes post-secondary DLIs in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon. There are still no approved post-secondary DLIs in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. 

Institutions in the list must have a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their provincial or territorial government. The Canadian government has issued a health and safety guide for international students travelling back to their DLI. As students make their gradual return to Canadian universities, recent surveys from Navitas Insights show that international students consider Canada a “safe and stable” study destination.

Canadian universities popular among international students

Ontario hosts the highest number of international students in Canada. In 2019, nearly half of the total number of international students in Canada — around 307,000 — studied in Ontario. British Columbia is second with 23% of Canada’s international students (about 145,000 people), while Quebec is third with 14% of all international students in Canada (87,000 people). Manitoba and Nova Scotia have high international student populations on a per capita basis, with some 19,000 international students in each province.

Despite the gradual reopening of Canadian universities to international students, a study by CourseCompare, a platform that connects students to courses and training programmes across the country, found that some universities in Canada are seeing a drop in international enrolment and an uptick in domestic enrolment. They saw a 9% average drop in international student enrolment based on official figures shared by over 50 colleges and universities across Canada. This is possibly due to the fact that many institutions are looking to extend their online education into next semester. Many others have indicated they are still compiling and updating their data, said CourseCompare.

Cambrian College in Sudbury, for instance, notes that international enrolment is down 19.8% for fall 2020; the University of Regina is seeing an over 50% decrease in first-term international students. Not all universities saw a drop in international enrolment. For example, UBC Okanagan in British Columbia saw a 9.1% increase in international undergraduate enrolment this year compared to last year. In contrast, international undergraduate enrolment increased by 20.8% from 2018 to 2019 and 29.7% from 2017 to 2018.

CIC News notes that many international students are enrolled in more practical hands-on programmes such as acting, nursing and lab-dependent programmes such as electrical engineering and film production. “Such programmes may be considered to be the most negatively impacted, since it is very challenging to present the courses online. An alternative is to present the courses on-campus with physical distancing procedures. In some cases, the courses can be suspended altogether,” it said.