COVID-19 may depress the enrolment of international students at Canadian universities. (Stock photo)

COVID-19 may depress the enrolment of international students at Canadian universities. (Stock photo)

Pandemic may fail foreign enrolment at Canadian universities

New Stats Canada report underscores reliance on international students

A new report from Statistics Canada warns that COVID-19 might depress the number of international students studying in Canada, a growing, important source of revenue for universities.

While the report acknowledges uncertainty about how the pandemic might impact enrolment specifically and institutions generally, the report finds “real concerns” that demand for Canadian post-secondary education from abroad will decline.

Just under 14 per cent of post-secondary students enrolled at Canadian university campuses in 2017-2018 fell into the category of international students, up from 5.2 per cent less than a decade earlier in 2009-2010. International students pay what the report calls “substantially higher tuition fees” than their Canadian-born counterparts, fees that have helped reduce some of the gap between rising operating expenses and stagnant provincial grants over the past decade, according to the report.

In fact, certain programs have been relying heavily on international student enrolment, most notably those in the category of mathematics and computer and information sciences, where almost one-third of college and university enrolments were international.

RELATED: B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

RELATED: International students account for rise in enrolment at Canadian colleges and universities

Key source countries of international students include China, which was the main source country in 11 of the 12 broad university program categories, often by a wide margin, as well as India, which was the primary source in nine out of 12 broad college program categories.

But if these are the broad parameters, Canada’s “increased reliance on international enrolments” has raised concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as physical distancing directives may impact programs that require in-person contact through laboratory or studio work, internships, or music recitals. New public health measures also require all individuals entering Canada to quarantine for 14 days.


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