Posted December 7, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. EST
Before coronavirus forced online learning, international students in Canada enrolled in post-secondary schools three times as often as domestic students.
A recent report by Statistics Canada is looking at prepandemic enrollment for students to assess the impact of the coronavirus on students. The researchers used the 2018/2019 academic year as a benchmark to measure how enrollment and graduation had impacted, especially for international students.
There were more than 2.1 million students enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges that year, up 1.8 percent from the 2017 academic session. That gain was entirely due to international student enrollment, which increased 16.2 percent . In the same year, the enrollment of domestic students decreased by 0.5 percent.
Most of these enrollments were in formal programs, only 8.4 percent in courses outside of a formal program such as continuing education or personal interest.
The number of international students has more than tripled within a decade
Between the academic years 2008 and 2018, the number of international students enrolled rose from 101,000 to over 318,000. The number of Canadian students enrolling in formal programs rose 10.9 percent over the same period.
As a result, the proportion of international students in Canadian post-secondary schools rose from 6.4 percent to 16.2 percent, accounting for 57.2 percent of the total growth in all program enrollments.
Canadian universities are more reliant on tuition fees for funding
As provincial government revenues decline, Canadian universities are increasingly relying on tuition as a source of income, according to an earlier report by Statistics Canada. The share of income from tuition fees increased by 4.7 percent between 2013 and 2018.
International students pay higher tuition fees than domestic students. As a result of higher fees and the growth in enrollments, international students contributed approximately 40 percent of all tuition, or $ 4 billion, at Canadian universities in the 2018 academic session.
MINT enrollments are increasing and the humanities are decreasing, but not for international students
The education systems develop with the needs of the labor market. Within a decade there were 24.2 percent more enrollments in math, computer and information sciences. Although these programs accounted for 5 percent of all enrollments in 2018, this area has seen the strongest growth over a 10-year period.
In the Canadian labor market, jobs related to the digital economy grew 37 percent, outperforming the overall economic growth rate, which was 8.6 percent between 2010 and 2017.
Although the humanities accounted for 11 percent of enrollments in 2018, these programs saw the largest drop in enrollments. Over a 10-year period, the total number of students enrolled in these programs decreased 19.4 percent. Statistics Canada also found that arts and humanities graduates were more likely to be overqualified in their professions than their peers.
When comparing international and local students, there were differences in enrollment rates for the humanities. Humanities enrollments fell 25.2 percent for Canadian students but 106.1 percent for international students. The increase in international student enrollments could be due to initiatives to encourage them to study in Canada or to respond to the demands of the job market in their home country.
Growth in business, management and public administration programs led by international students
International students have seen a surge in enrollments in business, management and public administration programs in the decade leading up to 2018. The proportion of international students studying in these areas increased by more than 200 percent, while the number of Canadian students rose by only 7.7 percent.
Canadian students were more likely to work in health and related fields, with 15.2 percent of all Canadian enrollments selecting these fields. Only 5.1 percent of all international students chose these areas in 2018.
Look to the future
Although the long-term effects of COVID-19 on international students are still years away, Statistics Canada notes that your participation is important for many reasons.
“The income from international tuition fees not only contributes to the profitability of some courses and programs, but international students also increase the social and cultural diversity of the locations,” says the report.
International students also contribute to the local economy when studying in Canada and provide a large pool of highly skilled people who can become permanent residents and contribute to the workforce.
Almost a third of international students with a Canadian Bachelor’s degree and almost half of international students with a Master’s degree became permanent residents in the ten years after receiving their first study permit.
Statistics Canada will monitor this data as it becomes available in a post-COVID world. They provide insights into the impact of the pandemic on student enrollment and shifts in study areas.
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