cities in Ontario
Planning to study in Canada? See which student cities are on the rise. Source: Cole Burston/Getty Images/AFP

When you think of studying in Canada, which cities in Ontario top the list? Having analysed student populations in cities in Ontario from 2015 to 2018, Dr. Mike Moffatt from the Ivey Business School was able to pinpoint the most popular destinations for international students. Looking at the fastest-growing international student cities in Ontario, we can extrapolate which areas will benefit the most from the upcoming boom once they return to university.

“Ontario’s spike in non-permanent residents is primarily caused by growth in the number of international students,” he wrote in his series on population growth, migration, and Ontario’s housing market called Ontarians on the Move. “This leads to the question: Where are they living?”

A heart is lit up in a Hilton Hotel in downtown Toronto in support of healthcare workers, as seen near hospital row on University St. amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: Cole Burston/AFP

Toronto, KWC, Kingston top student cities in Ontario

Unsurprisingly, Toronto hosts the highest number of international students in its colleges and universities, which include York, Ryerson, and Centennial Colleges. There were 130,000 study permit holders living there by January 2018, spiking just 1.5 times more in 2018 compared to 2015.

Grouped under the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge (KWC) cities in Ontario saw their international student population grow over four times in three years. Over 12,000 more study permit holders were registered over that time frame. Other parts of Southwestern Ontario are also identified as fast-growing student cities in Canada, where the ageing population stands to benefit from an eager, young workforce.

Over in Kingston — home to Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College — the number of study permit holders grew tenfold in three years. St. Catharine’s/ Niagara well over doubled its international student population in that time, while Peterborough, Barrie, Thunder Bay, and Sudbury experienced a less significant growth than other cities in Canada.

The research also brought an interesting phenomenon to light: there is more robust international student growth in colleges than universities within these cities in Canada. Further studying the available data, Dr. Moffatt found the University of Toronto and Centennial College to be the top schools for growth in Toronto. Conestoga College emerged top in Kitchener while St. Lawrence College proved to be increasingly popular in Kingston.