Canada’s Popularity Growing as Study Abroad Destination for International Students

A new survey of international students has revealed Canada is fast catching the U.S. and U.K. among the world’s most popular destinations for young people looking to study abroad.

The 2018 edition of the QS Applicant Survey shows Canada could be about to overtake the U.K. and become the second most popular study destination behind the U.S.

Experts see the change as a reaction to political shifts in both countries. While the U.S. is pursuing anti-immigrant policies under Donald Trump, the U.K. has voted to leave the European Union, with a central issue being freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, Canada is focused on increasing immigration, with encouraging international graduates to stay and build their careers here a central policy of the federal Liberal government.


International Students: Preferred Study Destinations

1 U.S. 42% 6 France 14%
2 U.K. 34% 7 Switzerland 11%
3 Canada 33% 8 Netherlands 10%
4 Australia 26% 9 Spain 9%
5 Germany 24% 10 New Zealand 9%

Source: QS Applicant Survey 2018


The QS Application Survey says that although Canada remains third overall, it beats both the U.S. and the U.K. in attracting students from specific regions.

“Canada remains the third most-popular study destination, and in many cases, outperforms the UK and the US when target destinations are broken down by country, especially in the Middle East region,” the report says.

U.S. Government data shows a sharp drop of 17 per cent in the number of study permits issued to students from overseas in the year to September 30, 2017.

At the same time, Canadian universities have seen nearly an 11 per cent increase in their international student numbers, suggesting Canada is attracting at least some of those put off the U.S. by the Trump administration.

A three-step process has been established in Canada targeting international students. First, they hold Study Permits while in full time education, second, they become eligible for a Post Graduation Work Permit, and third, they can use all the experience gathered to qualify for permanent residence.

It has made Canada one of the more attractive countries in the world for foreign students considering their study options. Figures from Universities Canada show a 10.7 per cent increase in the number of international students, country-wide.


Canadian University International Student Cohort, 2017 Increase

Province 2017 Increase (%)
Alberta 8.8
British Columbia 15.6
Manitoba 5.6
Newfoundland & Labrador 10.5
New Brunswick -5.7
Nova Scotia 4.2
Ontario 12.7
Prince Edward Island 12.8
Quebec 9.1
Saskatchewan 2
CANADA 10.7

Figures: Universities Canada


Ottawa recently announced that it will accept nearly a million new permanent residents over the next three years, and a significant chunk of those are expected to be international students who are graduates from Canadian universities.

The federal government sees them as blue chip new permanent residents: young people with a Canadian education, knowledge of the official languages, often with Canadian work experience and knowledge of how life works here. This puts them already on the pathway to integration, a crucial buzz word at IRCC.

Since coming to power in fall 2015, the Liberal government has attempted to make it easier for international students to gain permanent residence.

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