Getting a Canadian study permit should take 13 weeks. So why are these Iranians waiting as long as two years?

Unclear but possibly security clearance-related:

Few graduate students have the experience and know-how in radiation and computer engineering that University of Saskatchewan professor Li Chen needs for his research.

In January 2020, through a network of academics in his field, he recruited Peiman Pour Momen, who had a master’s degree and appeared to be a perfect fit.

Momen was in Iran.

Now, almost two years after Chen offered the position on his team, the prospective PhD student is still waiting for a study permit to come to Canada.

And, after three deferrals for admission, the university has withdrawn his offer.

“I am devastated,” says Momen, 31, who has a master’s degree in computer engineering from the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran.

“I’ve wasted 18 months of my life and still there is no end to this nightmare.”

The Canadian immigration department says on its website that the processing of study permits takes an average 13 weeks even now, in the midst of the pandemic. Some Iranian students say they have been waiting as long as two years, and that the delay is costing them career opportunities.

“We want Canadian authorities to expedite this process and stop discriminating against Iranian students,” Momen said. “We are losing our funded positions and universities may stop taking us for future projects because our study permits may not be issued on time.”

Chen, an electrical and computer engineering professor, says Momen would have been “a great asset to my research project.”

“He has a strong CV and the experience,” said Chen, whose research focuses on radiation effects in microelectronics and radiation-tolerant digital and analog circuits and systems.

“We’ve received funding ($350,000) for this project. Having strong students like him is key for our research.”

The number of study permit applications to Canada from Iran has been on the rise — from 7,336 in 2017 to 19,594 in 2019, before it dipped to 15,817 last year, due to the global pandemic. In the first seven months of this year, the immigration department received 12,843 Iranian applications.

The majority of the applicants planned to attend post-secondary education programs. Last year, for instance, almost 83 per cent of the 15,817 applicants were accepted by a college or university, including 5,356 in a master’s and 2,106 in a doctorate program in universities.

There were about 3,200 Iranian study permit applications in the system pending a decision as of the end of September, and more than half of those applications were for a post-graduate program.

It’s not just the lengthy processing time frustrating Iranian applicants, but also the increasing refusal rate.

The latest immigration data shows the refusal rates of study permit applications from Iran has doubled from 22 per cent in 2017 to 46 per cent so far this year.

So far in 2021, 53 per cent of the applicants accepted for a master’s program in university were refused, up from 10 per cent four years ago.

Arian Soltani, who has a master’s degree in software engineering in Iran, was accepted by the Université de Sherbrooke in May 2019 and was supposed to start in the fall of 2020.

He says he thought 16 months would be enough time to obtain a study permit; today his application is still pending “a routine background check,” the immigration department told the Star.

“Who, in their right mind, would believe a simple study permit application could take more than two years?” asked the 29-year-old, who decided to start remotely last year, hoping his study permit would come through eventually.

Soltani said it’s hard to concentrate on his PhD studies and research, with his mind preoccupied with his study permit situation and facing financial struggles to stay afloat without getting paid.

“I don’t have any access to my (research) funding since I reside outside of Canada. So I made a deal with my supervisor that I’d live off my savings until I get the visa,” he said.

“Those savings are long gone and now I am basically living off a mortgage.”

The immigration department said there are many reasons for the processing delays, including security screening, the “complexity” of a case, missing documents and problems in establishing identity — and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s frustrating for anyone hoping to begin their studies in Canada when their application takes longer than expected, which has been the case for too many in the Iranian community,” said department spokesperson Rémi Larivière.

“Every application is handled on a case-by-case basis, and there’s no one simple explanation for how long it takes.”

He suggested that in some countries such as Iran, it can be more challenging for immigration officials and the applicant to obtain documentation, leading to longer processing times than average.

Maryam Sattari, who applied for her study permit in September 2019 and is still waiting, said she checks her application on the immigration department website religiously and there has been literally no update to her file from day one, other than a confirmation acknowledging the receipt of her application.

“My profile still shows that the application is under a background check,” said the 31-year-old, who has a master’s degree in photonics and was to start her PhD program in science energy and material at the National Institute of Scientific Research in Quebec last year.

“Unfortunately, they are not able to determine when my application will be finalized.”

Source: Getting a Canadian study permit should take 13 weeks. So why are these Iranians waiting as long as two years?

The U.S. Attracts Fewer International Students, Loses Billions In Revenue. Here’s Why

Of note:

The Biden administration is hoping to attract tens of thousands of international students who stayed away from U.S. campuses during the pandemic. Foreign enrollment plummeted by 20% last year costing nearly $10 billion dollars in lost revenue. Though some students are starting to return, recovery might not be so easy. Even before the pandemic, international students were already turning away from the U.S.

In the 2018-2019 school year, foreign enrollment peaked at 1.1 million students and it’s been declining ever since as countries like Australia, Canada and the U.K gain more foreign students.

That’s a challenge for American colleges. But it also could be a blow to U.S. competitiveness. ​​​​Foreign students often go on to build their lives in the United States, filling our faculty offices, our laboratories, our boardrooms. One in five entrepreneurs who founded start-ups in the United States is an immigrant — and three-quarters of them first came to America as students.

International students are more likely than Americans to pay full freight. At public universities, the out-of-state tuition they pay has helped make up for a drop in state funding, especially after the Great Recession.

“They [colleges] need the tuition. They need full four-year out of state tuition payers,” says Robert Daly who directs the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center. Daly argues that colleges have become too reliant on students from one country: China. “They’ve become addicted to this money.”

Higher education is one the America’s largest service exports

When the pandemic sliced away a huge chunk of foreign students, the new administration took note. Higher education is one the nation’s largest service exports — bigger than agriculture exports like corn and soybeans.

Unlike the Trump administration’s hostility to foreigners, the Biden administration recently called it a “foreign policy imperative” that the U.S. remain the top study destination for international students. It’s putting students first in line for interviews and visa processing at U.S. consulates around the world.

But for many foreign students, the U.S. just isn’t as dominant. Emily Dobson calls it the “geoswerve.” Dobson, a college counselor in Brazil, has seen more diversity in where her students apply to colleges over the past few years. She says they’re finding options not just in traditional destinations like Australia and the U.K. but in Qatar, Japan, and the Czech Republic. “We’re not seeing the future we used to see here,” she says of the United States. “Still love you. A few of you are on our list. But you know, we’re going to go to other schools.”

“The American Dream idea,” she says, “is being questioned more.”

Dobson’s students are looking for more affordable options than the U.S. and for places where they can earn a degree in just three years. Safety is also a big concern — America’s gun violence scares many families.

New hesitancy by foreign student spells big trouble for U.S. colleges and economy

And 70% of international students on American campuses are from Asia. The recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes have made some of them reconsider their futures in the U.S. Early in the pandemic, Lily Cao, a Chinese student at Mount Holyoke College, was confronted in a grocery store by a woman accusing her of spreading the coronavirus. “COVID has really been the trigger point where I felt like, Oh, I might get discriminated against,” Cao says. She plans to return to China to build her career in public health.

This new hesitancy spells big trouble for colleges — and for the larger U.S. economy, which is propelled by immigrant entrepreneurs, many of whom came here as college students. Competitor countries, such as Australia and Canada, make it easy for international graduates to stay and work and give them priority above other applicants for permanent residency. Britain last year introduced a global talent visa that fast-tracks people in in-demand fields for immigration. Universities in those countries frequently promote the ability to work after graduation when they recruit international students.

U.S. colleges are trying to regain their competitive edge and the pandemic may offer something of a blueprint. After more than a year of remote learning, both professors and students are more comfortable with online education. More hybrid and online programs could shorten the amount of time students would need to be in the U.S. And colleges hope a new commitment by the Biden administration to welcome international students can reignite the American Dream for students from abroad.

Source: The U.S. Attracts Fewer International Students, Loses Billions In Revenue. Here’s Why

Canada’s international students are becoming less diverse. Here’s why Ottawa says that’s a problem

Of note (so much for the 2019 strategy!):

More and more foreign students are coming from the same countries, concentrating in particular school programs and provinces, and that could spell trouble for Canada’s international education sector, says a new study.

Based on immigration and post-secondary student information data between 2000 and 2019, Statistics Canada examined the countries from which international students come, and how those students’ level of study and province of study have evolved over the years.

Over nearly two decades, the number of first-time study permit holders almost quadrupled to 250,020, with the most notable jump coming post-2015 with the annual growth rates ranging between 12.5 per cent and 27 per cent.

The share of the international student population from the top 10 countries has grown from 67.9 to 74.9 per cent, with those from India skyrocketing to a whopping 34.4 per cent of the pie from just 2.7 per cent 20 years ago.

Increasingly, international students are drawn to shorter, cheaper college programs with business, management and public administration becoming the dominant fields of study.

While international enrolment increased in all provinces, Ontario consistently attracted the largest share of foreign students, with its percentage up steeply to 48.9 per cent in the 2015-19 cohort from just 37.4 per cent in the 2000-04 cohort.

“Despite its growth, the international student population has become less diverse in many ways over the past two decades,” said the study released this week.

And those trends go against Ottawa’s International Education Strategy, unveiled in 2019, which cited the “need for diversification” in the flow of international students to Canada as well as their fields as well as levels and location of study.

“Attracting students from a wider diversity of countries, as well as to a greater variety of regions and schools, would foster sustainable growth of Canada’s international education sector and distribute the benefits more equitably across the country,” said the strategic plan.

“The new strategy contributes to these goals by increasing the diversity of inbound student populations, skill sets and programs, and by fostering people-to-people ties and international networks.”

Like diversifying investments to reduce risk, attracting students from different countries can also minimize the impact on international enrolment if there is a particular regional economic downturn — the kind that might make students from a certain area halt their studies.

According to the study, the growth of international education in the past five years has much to do with new regulations in 2014 that set up a designated learning institution regime to stamp out “nongenuine and poor quality” schools as well as automatically allowing the students to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week.

Over the years, Ottawa has also made a strong push to favour those with Canadian education credentials and work experience as potential permanent residents, turning international students into a pipeline for permanent immigration.

At the program level, the Statistics Canada study said, the shares of international students in elementary through secondary schools have declined, but it was made up for by increases in the shares intending to study at the college and master’s degree levels.

In 2019, the share of first-time study permit holders at the elementary school level was five per cent, a drop from the 10 per cent in 2000. The corresponding share also declined at the secondary level from 18 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2019.

In contrast, those in college programs grew from 27 per cent to 41 per cent as their peers studying at the master’s degree level doubled from five per cent to 10 per cent. The share of international students at the doctoral degree level was steady, at two per cent.

Among the 2015-19 cohort, there were 324,000 international students in college programs, compared to 246,000 in universities over the same period.

Over the past five years, India (34.4 per cent) has replaced China (16.5 per cent) as the top source country for international students, followed by South Korea (4.7 per cent), France (4.5 per cent), Brazil (3.3 per cent), Vietnam (2.7 per cent), Japan (2.6 per cent), the United States (2.6 per cent), Mexico (2.1 per cent) and Nigeria (1.9 per cent).

Of those in college programs, Indian students made up 66.8 per cent of the international student population. Those from India also accounted for 21.3 per cent of that population in universities.

Ontario was the main beneficiary in the competition for international students, with its share up from 37.4 per cent in 2000 to 48.9 per cent in 2019, while B.C. saw the biggest drop from 31.1 per cent to 22.7 per cent over the two decades. Alberta’s and Quebec’s shares both dropped slightly as well.

At both the college and university levels, the most common field of study for international students was business, management and public administration, although growth in the field being more prominent at colleges, up from 37 per cent to 41 per cent in the last decade, at the expense of international enrolment in architecture, engineering and related technologies, and of visual and performing arts, and communications technologies.

The share of international students in math, computer and information sciences was up notably in colleges while universities saw a bigger gain in international students studying physical and life sciences and technologies.

“Looking forward, trends in the sociodemographic characteristics of international students have the potential to influence the sustainable growth of Canada’s international education,” the Statistics Canada study concluded.

“Increased concentration of international students by source country, level of education, province of study and field of study may have a downstream impact on the potential pool of candidates for permanent immigration and the Canadian labour force.”

Source: Canada’s international students are becoming less diverse. Here’s why Ottawa says that’s a problem

Why do so many Chinese international students in Canada end up back home?

Interesting survey from one school cohort:

The 2017 class at Rotman Commerce arrived at the University of Toronto just as Xi Jinping became China’s President. As they studied, Mr. Xi consolidated power, all while pushing his country toward greater influence overseas. In western countries, views on China have darkened. Only 14 per cent of Canadians view it favourably, a record low, according to a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute earlier this year.

But this opinion isn’t shared by China’s best and brightest.

Young Chinese people make up the majority of international students who attend Rotman Commerce. On graduation, they possess a potent set of attributes for any employer: a coveted diploma, language skills and the kind of ambition that brought them to Canada in the first place.

But many have no intention of staying. For them, China is not just home, but a place whose embrace of modernity has created comforts not available in North America – bullet trains, lively cities with a cornucopia of eating choices – while its capital and consumer markets offer opportunity that Canada cannot match.

Chinese students like to joke about Canada as haoshan, haoshui, hao wuliao: nice mountains, nice water, very boring. China is not boring and its air and water are quickly improving, along with its salaries.

In other words, even if China grows less appealing to those outside its borders, it is becoming more desirable to many of its own. John Shi, one of the Rotman Commerce 2017 graduates, recently travelled for the first time to Suzhou. It’s been long considered a secondary centre, but “when I see the way that city has developed – oh my god, I must say it’s really better than Toronto,” Mr. Shi says.

In the U.S., the National Science Foundation tracks the percentage of doctorate recipients who intend to stay. Things have changed there, too. In 2001, 91.4 per cent of PhDs from China intended to remain in the U.S. By 2019, the number had fallen to 79.3 per cent. The remainder expected to return to China.

The rise in the overall numbers of overseas Chinese students has been vertiginous: in 1990, only 2,950 young Chinese went abroad to any country for studies; by 2004, fewer than 115,000. In 2019, more than 140,000 had study permits in Canada alone.

“A lot of these people go out on their own money, on family money — and they’re trying to get an education that will advantage them back in China,” said David Zweig, a professor emeritus of social science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who is writing a book China’s Search For Talent.

Where those students go has significance for Canada and its policy makers. “You can always raise the question: is it to Canada’s advantage to train these people, give them jobs and then they take their skills back to China?” Mr. Zweig said. He sees no reason for serious concern.

But the question he poses also has ramifications for Canadian employers. If those students leave, “in some sense, that’s on us,” said Alexandra MacKay, interim vice dean for undergraduate and specialized programs at Rotman. If students see better opportunities in China, Canadian companies may need to think whether there is a need “to revisit your recruiting model to make this an attractive proposition.”

But the destination students choose also has political significance for China. Unlike many of their fellow citizens, they have the ability to choose. Graduating from a Canadian university places them on a quick track to permanent residency and citizenship.

Where they decide to go, then, is a useful barometer of how the current generation views China.

So how does the Xi Jinping cohort see China, and the world? To find out, The Globe and Mail surveyed 35 students from the Rotman Commerce class of 2017 who were born in China or grew up there. The respondents make up roughly one-third of the Chinese students at Rotman that year. Their answers, and some of their stories, are below.


John Shi grew up in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, determined to get into the best schools. “I dreamed of going to the top finance university in China. But it’s so hard,” he said. He points to inequalities in the administration of the gaokao, the feared university placement exam. Students can score up to 750 points on the exam, but those marks are not all academic. Authorities can award bonus points to certain categories of people, and the administration of those unearned points meant that Mr. Shi would need to outperform a student in Beijing by 100 points in order to gain entry to a similar university. “The competition is really not that equal,” he says. Canada offered a more equitable academic landscape. So Mr. Shi decided to skip the gaokao altogether. He came to Canada for grade 11.


Since the day she graduated, Joanna Li has thought about returning to China. Her family is there. She feels a stronger “bond with China, my motherland” than with Canada. She still eats Chinese food almost every day. But she has hesitated. How could she compete with people back home? With its huge population, “there are many more talents in China. You have people who work as hard as you do, are as smart as you and have more local experience than you – and they have more connections,” she said. Finding a job in China that can match her Canadian salary “is way harder than I expected.” But she has found life in Canada disappointing – when she had a back issue, the wait to get medical attention was long. “I was kind of disappointed by that,” she says. “Because in China, I can easily see a doctor that is one of the best in Shanghai.” She has felt lonely, too, a feeling exacerbated by travel restrictions that have kept her from seeing family during the pandemic. “I’m just looking for a change,” she says. She has joined groups of like-minded students in Canada and the U.S., all looking to move back to China, where life is familiar and work more thrilling. “I can see my life in Canada for the next 10 or 12 years. But at this point, I’m just more excited about a different life in China.”


For Simon Liang, the numbers tell the story: China’s population is nearly 40 times that of Canada. Its economy is more than eight times larger. “The market in China is just way greater than in Canada. That’s why I’ve come back to China,” says Mr. Liang, a graduate of the 2016 Rotman Commerce class who is the founder of Queen’s Education Group, an online high school with about 300 full-time students. After graduation, he got a job in Canada long enough to secure a permanent resident card, quitting once that was in hand. He remembers looking up at the Canadian corporate ladder and “I could see exactly where I would land in 20 years – and that is not exciting at all.” Though starting wages tend to be better in Canada, China offers fabulous wealth to those who succeed. More importantly, in Canada, “I can’t prove my value,” Mr. Liang says. In his home country, with its scale and global importance, “I feel like I can have more influence for this world.” China, he says, feels like a place of “unlimited opportunities.”


There was a time when Chinese students would joke about studying abroad as an exercise in dujin — gilding themselves in the golden aura of international credentials. But with 1.6 million Chinese students currently enrolled overseas, a mere diploma is no longer enough. Crystal Lou quickly realized that if she wanted an edge in China, she needed to build meaningful work experience in Canada. Doing so was easy: international student university graduates are eligible for three-year work permits. That quick path to a job was one of the main reasons she came to Canada. She does still contemplate returning to China, where her parents live. China “is growing a lot faster than here. So you probably have more opportunity to go up there versus here,” she says. She won’t apply for Canadian citizenship “until I fully decide I’m staying here.” But as someone who works in private equity, she has also found virtue in Canadian stability. “Here you can value a company based on fundamentals,” she said. “That doesn’t really work in China,” where markets are more prone to influence from politics or investor mania. “For the job that I’m doing, I think Canada fits me better,” she says.

Deciding where to live is “more of a choice between what you really value,” says Emily Wang. In China, things are more convenient: public transit is cheap and near-universal, while powerful apps and mobile payments turn smartphones into remote controls for life. But the work environment can be tough. Some companies, particularly in the technology sector, demand brutally long hours. There is “more competition and maybe more pressure mentally,” Ms. Wang says. Contrast that with Canada, where “I might have more work-life balance, which is something I value.” That’s one of the reasons she stayed after graduation. In Canada, too, she senses greater freedom for the types of open political discussion that can be dangerous in China. But when it comes to personal liberty, “in daily life I don’t feel like there is that much of a difference. I felt pretty free when I was in China, and also here in Canada.” In fact, the epidemic has made China look attractive. While rolling lockdowns continued for more than a year in Ontario, people in China “are all in restaurants and travelling around.”

In the physical sense, Katrina Jiang has lived in Canada for nearly 12 years. But in many ways, she has never left China. She does not pay much attention to news or entertainment in Canada; she doesn’t so much as have a Netflix account. Instead, “100 per cent” of her media intake comes from China: celebrities on Weibo, shows on iQiyi, short videos on Douyin. “I know I have been here for a long time. I came when I was 14,” she says. “But I feel like I’m still connected to China, to Chinese culture and Chinese entertainment.” She feels the disconnect most keenly at work, where she has little to add to conversations about local events or the Blue Jays. She worries that distance from coworkers will limit her career advancement, and is mulling a return home. “I see a kind of ceiling here,”, she says. “In Canada, your soft skills can’t really compete with native speakers. You have to know their culture, you have to know their entertainment, and you have to chat to make connections. It’s hard for us if we don’t grow up in that environment.”


Australia: Foreign student enrolments 210,000 lower than expected

Steeper drop than in Canada (92,000 fewer international students, or 28 per cent):

Australia’s universities have enrolled 210,000 fewer international students this year than expected, with the loss of AU$1.8 billion (US$1.4 billion) in income. More than 17,000 jobs have already disappeared from campuses across the higher education sector.

To put the figure in context, according to government data, there were 442,000 international student enrolments in higher education in Australia in 2019, the latest figure available.

But Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge believes Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout could pave the way to boost its intake of international students as early as the start of next year.

Tudge told a conference that Australia’s lucrative international student market could be given a much-needed boost by February 2022.

“With the vaccine rollout under way, I am increasingly hopeful that student arrivals in larger numbers will occur by semester one of next year,” Tudge said.

“We are looking forward to welcoming back international students who remain overseas, and we thank them for their patience to date.

“I hope they appreciate that we have closed the borders for a very good reason.” 

Tudge also raised the possibility of individual universities bringing international students to Australia this year if the nation’s chief health officers agreed and safe quarantine quarters were provided.

Billion-dollar market collapses

Australia’s AU$10 billion (US$7.6 billion) international student market collapsed after the federal government closed the nation’s international borders at the beginning of the pandemic.

Tudge claimed enrolments of foreign students at the end of 2020 were only down 7% on 2019, although universities estimate 140,000 students have since been stranded overseas.

Whoever is correct, the fact is that Australia has 210,000 fewer international student enrolments this year than would otherwise have been expected.

Universities Australia, the nation’s representative body, has released data showing the university sector had lost AU$1.8 billion in income from foreign students last year, with at least 17,000 jobs on campuses across the nation having disappeared.

Bringing students back

“Of course, there is still the opportunity to bring students back in small, phased pilots,” Tudge said.

“This could occur if an institution works with the state or territory government and presents a plan to us for quarantining international students.”

But he warned that university plans to bring more foreign students into the country would have to be approved by the chief health officer of each state or territory.

“There must also be quarantine space available above and beyond that presently used for returning Australians.”

Tudge has discussed various plans with state government and university leaders but to date has not received any concrete proposals.

He said he hoped the federal government would have a clearer idea later this year as to when international borders would re-open.

“We are expecting more clarity on these issues by mid-year, at which time we should be more certain on border openings,” he said.

No large numbers returning

Tudge believes it is unlikely that foreign students will be allowed to return in large numbers until 2022, although universities may be able to enrol limited numbers of students from overseas.

He admits the strong growth in onshore international student numbers in recent years was unsustainable, and universities need to rethink this business model. 

Specifically: Australia must “rethink the on-campus business model of international education, and more broadly the international education strategy for the nation as a whole”.

“By using international student fees to fund research, universities have undermined the learning experience of domestic students and failed to address skills shortages,” Tudge said.

Narrow focus on management

He noted that half of all international students were enrolled in management and commerce, which were not experiencing skills shortages in Australia.

Instead, the nation’s universities should look towards online rather than onshore education, Tudge said.

“This incredible growth has been good for our economy, but even before COVID hit, strains were appearing and the continued rate of growth of on-campus enrolments was not sustainable in my view.” 

Tudge said this was particularly true for the public universities, institutions which had “a broader mandate”. 

“Having up to 60% of a classroom with international students from just one or two other countries is not optimising the Australian student experience – or the international student experience,” he said.

“Can we use levers, including migration levers, to encourage more students to study in the areas where we know we have shortages?” he asked.


Fears that international student intake will keep falling

Not much new but nevertheless worth reading:

Canada suffered a year-on-year drop of between 20% and 30% in international student enrolment between the 2019-20 academic year and the 2020-21 academic year because of the COVID crisis.

The absence of 65,000 international students is already affecting local economies, university budgets and research in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

But university and college administrators, and non-governmental organisations involved with bringing international students to Canada are concerned that travel rules introduced in February 2021 to restrict the spread of COVID-19 will further depress the numbers of international students coming to Canada, both this spring and in September.  

Since this February, international flights to Canada can land only in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, and travellers have been required to be quarantined at designated hotels.  

According to Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, these new regulations have disproportionately impacted colleges and universities in smaller cities and rural and remote areas because students must serve the entirety of their quarantine at the government-approved hotels.  

“There’s no designated airport in Atlantic Canada,” she notes. International students destined for universities in this region must first quarantine in a hotel at one of the hubs at a cost of CA$2,000 (US$1,600).

“This is very costly, especially for an international student,” Amyot says.  

In addition, once the student travels to their destination university in, say, Halifax, Nova Scotia, or Quebec City, they will have to quarantine again. While the final tallies are not in, Amyot says, because of these two layers of quarantine, we are seeing a large number of deferrals for the spring, summer and upcoming fall intakes.

International students whose universities are near one of the designated airports must quarantine in the government-approved hotels for at least three days, the period it normally takes to receive COVID-19 test results. If they test negative, and if their school has a plan approved by the local health authority and the federal government, the student can be taken to a quarantine centre on his or her school’s campus.  

In an effort to lessen the financial burden on international students, the University of Waterloo in southwestern Ontario picks up the cost for days four through to 14 for students who quarantine on its main campus in Kitchener, Ontario. 

“The cost,” says University of Waterloo Associate Vice Provost Chris Read, “is about CA$2,000 and includes transportation from the airport, accommodation and food”. This programme explains why the university’s year-over-year enrolment of international students has remained stable at 8,861 in 2020-21 compared with 8,897 the year before. 

Concerns about international students’ mental health has prompted the University of Calgary to include a Zoom-based buddy system in its quarantine programme. The buddies are not counsellors, says Dean and Vice-Provost Dr Robin Yates, but are peer volunteers, “a friendly face who will keep them company”.

For its part, in addition to providing quarantine space in its dormitories, the University of Toronto has established a CA$9.1 million (US$7.2 million) fund to help international students pay for the period of time they have to quarantine in a hotel.

The financial impact resulting from the absence of international students is being felt across the country and is affecting the bottom line of universities and colleges, according to Professor Robert Falconer of the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

“Across the country, with a few exceptions, universities are relying more and more on international students as a primary source of revenue. British Columbia is most exposed with over 50% of its tuition revenue coming from international students,” he says. 

The differential rates charged to international students varies, but, Falconer told University World News, “it is quite significant”. At Falconer’s university, tuition and fees for international students in the sciences is CA$8,000 (US$6,400) a year, while it is CA$3,000 for domestic students. 

The figure is even greater at the University of Waterloo. Tuition fees for domestic students enrolled in graduate studies in architecture are CA$10,900 as compared to CA$59,700 (US$47,600) for international students. In the faculties of applied health sciences and art, the tuition fees for each group are CA$7,700 and CA$40,900, respectively. 

According to Yates of the University of Calgary, the differential paid by international students is vital. “It helps institutions to be able to offer programmes, especially smaller institutions, that they would not have been able to afford otherwise, either because the schools did not have enough money or enough domestic students to be able to offer that programme.”

Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, could not have been blunter. “If we didn’t have international students, we would have a gaping hole in our economy. They contribute CA$21 billion [US$16.7 billion] to the Canadian economy as compared to CA$19 billion contributed by the automotive industry,” he says.

“This contribution might not be noticed in larger centres, but in small university towns like the University of Lethbridge [Alberta] or in Thunder Bay [Lakehead University], Ontario, they have a large impact through renting homes and buying goods and services,” says Falconer. 

Threat to STEM programmes

Falconer, Yates, Amyot and the other experts University World Newsinterviewed were especially concerned with how the decline in the number of international graduate students threatens Canada’s STEM programmes.

Of the 2,000 international graduate students at the University of Calgary, some 400 have requested deferrals and have remained in their home countries.  

According to Yates, about 200 are studying remotely. In his immunology lab, Yates told University World News that while certain tasks, such as data analysis, can be done remotely for a month or two, at some point you have to go back into the lab to generate more data.  

“Graduate students comprise a significant part of the workforce doing meaningful research that is pushing the research agenda forward for Canada. Anywhere between 20% and 80% of any given research group is composed of graduate students and on average a little more than one third of these students are international graduate students.”

Yates’ University of Calgary colleague, Falconer, is concerned that the brain drain in the STEM fields will hobble Canada’s post-COVID recovery. 

“The OECD countries are considering what a post-COVID industrial policy, and research and development policy looks like. We have to consider [whether without these students] we even have the staffing and personnel industrial base to facilitate a post-COVID industrial economy?” he asks.

To the question, especially in a pandemic, of why Canadian taxpayers should be funding graduate schools that educate international students, Yates answered: “To drive research agendas and move our research forward, we need the best and brightest from across the globe. The taxpayers deserve when they spend millions of dollars on research that that money be spent in the best way possible. And that is to get the best people here into Canada.”

It is important, Yates adds, that people understand that the pure or applied research that international graduate students undertake in labs like his undergirded the creation of the vaccines against COVID-19.  

“The PhDs that come out of these programmes are making and designing these vaccines. The workforces that are in AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer are sourced from graduate programmes and these include international students,” he says.

Corridor kept open

Minister Mendicino, Falconer and Amyot each emphasised that unlike similar countries such as Australia, Canada has kept the corridor for international students open because of the long-term importance of international students to the country.  

At present 25% of Canadians are older than 65, which means that for each retired person there are fewer than three working and paying into the social insurance system and taxes.  

“Canada needs immigration. We need people to decide to live here because we have such a low [1.5] fertility rate,” says Amyot.  

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic,” says Mendicino, “we have kept the international programme open, and we have improved it.” 

The four improvements, Mendicino explained to University World News, amount to a ladder, at the top of which international students can apply for permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship.  

The first improvement allowed international students to start their studies online in their home country. 

The second changed the international students’ work permits to give them the right to work in fields other than their course of study. 

The third was keeping open the corridor, which required planning with universities and colleges, and, negotiating agreements with the provinces; this last always a fraught activity in the fractious Canadian federation. 

The fourth improvement provides additional work permit flexibility to postgraduate students so as not to penalise them for starting their programmes online. Once they have graduated and found jobs, thousands of (former) international students apply for permanent residency.

“What I see as minister is an opportunity to broaden and accelerate the pathways that not only allow international students to come and study but also to stay in Canada and build the next chapter of their lives in Canada,” says Mendicino, who himself is the child of Italian immigrants.


ICYMI: Canada’s schools draw fewer international students due to pandemic travel rules

Seeing this in the monthly stats:

Many international students have postponed or cancelled their plans to study in Canada since Ottawa decided last month to limit entry options to the country to just four airports and require international travellers to pay for a mandatory hotel quarantine.

Denise Amyot, the chief executive officer of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said a $2,000 hotel bill is the cost of half of a semester for many students.

“(They) don’t have that kind of means,” she said.

If a group of international students are heading to New Brunswick, for example, Amyot said they might arrive in Toronto, where they would go to a hotel for three days as part of a 14-day quarantine.

Then, because they will be moving to another province with its own rules, they will have to quarantine again for 14 days when they arrive in New Brunswick.

“This is nonsense. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It means that for the spring and summer, we have a large number of deferrals.”

Amyot said the number of international students at Canadian colleges has declined by 20 to 30 per cent in the 2020-21 academic year compared to 2019-20.

“It has varied across the country, and we had larger declines in smaller cities and rural and remote areas.”

She said many international students are deferring their plans to study in Canada since the federal government funnelled all international flights to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver and began requiring travellers to quarantine at government-approved hotels.

“Those two measures that the government has put in place are jeopardizing the number of students arriving,” she said.

Amyot called on the government to exempt international students from the three-day stopover requirement.

The office of Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement that any decision to ease or modify border measures in Canada will be based on scientific evidence.

“Entry prohibitions, coupled with mandatory isolation and quarantine, continue to be the most effective means of limiting the introduction of new cases of COVID-19 into Canada at this time,” the statement said.

Even before the new entry restrictions were imposed, the total number of all international students in Canada had already declined by about 17 per cent last year, to 531,000 students at the end of 2020 from 639,000 in 2019, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada data.

Paul Davidson, the chief executive officer of Universities Canada, said the overall enrolment of international students at Canadian universities has declined by 2.1 per cent this year compared to last.

“It’s against a backdrop where typically the number of international students at universities has grown at over 10 per cent in each of the last five years, so it is quite a setback,” he said.

“We have 96 universities at Universities Canada, and 51 of those institutions saw a decline in the international students … Overall, 26 institutions saw a loss of over 10 per cent of their international students.”

Fewer international students in Canadian post-secondary schools means less revenue for these institutions, which will affect domestic students, said Amyot.

“It means that there will be less programs that can be offered,” she said.

“It’s not only a matter of dollars … There are some programs that are very popular with international students, but not so much for domestic students, and that’s especially in more technical areas linked to engineering or mining … Now (these programs) won’t be offered, because there’s not enough students.”

Amyot said the decrease in international student numbers will eventually create a gap in the labour force in Canada.

“(International students) also come with skills,” she said. “It means that there will be a gap because we won’t be able to count on those students, and who will suffer? The industry, because there will be a labor shortage.”

She said Canadian colleges and universities have used innovation to allow international students to complete their studies online.

Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, said international students studying online at Canadian schools from their home countries might lose interest in immigrating to Canada.

“They might decide, after getting their Canadian degree, that they’re not going to really bother coming to Canada because they’ve never been, they don’t have prospects here and no social network or job opportunities.”

Amyot said education institutions had quarantine plans in the fall for their international students, letting them go to their quarantine locations safely. Local public health authorities and the provincial and federal governments approved.

“It was working very well for the fall intake, but now with this new measure that was taken in place, everything is in the air,” she said.

Davidson said all international students, from kindergartners to PhDs, contribute about $22 billion a year to Canada’s economy.

“It’s a major contributor to Canada’s economic growth,” he said. “The decline in international student numbers is having a widespread economic impact in Canada.”

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the government has encouraged international students to stay in Canada during the pandemic.

“While other countries told international students to go home during the pandemic, we went to great lengths to support them and create a system that allowed them to continue their studies,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

The department has tried to make it easier for international students to apply for work permits after they graduate, including counting the time they spend studying online toward the period of time needed to make them eligible, for instance.

Davidson said the United States is reducing barriers to immigration for international students and the government of the United Kingdom is marketing to international students and expediting visa processing for them.

“This is a competitive landscape we’re working in,” he said. “The government of the U.K. is offering guaranteed visa approvals (for international students) in about three weeks, which is much faster than Canada.”

Source: Canada’s schools draw fewer international students due to pandemic travel rules

‘Very concerning’: Indian students abandon Australian universities

Of note given likely impact on Indian students choosing Canada (the largest group currently). Overall, the number of study permit holders in Canada fell by 34.5 percent, April-December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019:

The number of new Indian students choosing to study at Australian universities collapsed by more than 80 per cent in the second half of 2020, in a further blow to the country’s more than $30 billion international education system.

The Indian student market was worth $6.6 billion to the Australian economy in the 2019-20 financial year, second only to China as the top source country of foreign students studying in Australia.

But the impact of ongoing border closures has proved devastating for universities’ recruitment efforts. Around 2500 Indian students began studying at Australian universities between July and November last year — a decline of 83 per cent compared with the same period in 2019, data from the Department of Education shows.

In contrast, new commencements from Chinese university students declined by just over 8 per cent to around 8600 students over the same period. It is unclear how many international students elected to defer their universities studies in 2020 as the data has not been made public.

Ravi Singh, managing director of Global Reach, which recruits south Asian students to universities across the world, said his organisation had noticed a 50 per cent decrease in the numbers of students registering their interest to study in Australia at open day events in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

“As a contrast, Global Reach has doubled inquiries for UK and Canada. This is very concerning,” Mr Singh said.

“Even though we are recognised in the market as an Australian education specialist, the interest even amongst our pipeline students seem to be changing for the destinations that are open: UK, Canada and the US.”

He said more than 30 Australian universities participated in a virtual event targeted at Indian students last week, but fewer than 1000 people registered interest, while similar events last year routinely drew more than 2000 attendees.

“We can’t keep counselling the students that Australia has contained the virus and classes on the campuses is face-to-face. This means nothing to a student who is not able to travel to Australia even though visas are being granted,” he said.

The pandemic has exposed the heavy reliance on high fee-paying Chinese international students, particularly by the elite Group of Eight universities, as a key source of operating revenue. These concerns have been further heightened by fears that universities are the next target in China’s trade strikes on Australian industries, as reports emerged last month that Chinese authorities were directing local recruiters not to send students to Australia.

But less attention has been paid to the impact of border closures on the Indian market.

Dr Peter Hurley, a higher education expert at Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, said the data indicated Indian students, who are more likely to enrol in regional and non-Group of Eight institutions, have been far less willing to begin their studies online compared with their Chinese counterparts.

“When you look at the [new students] data, it’s dropped across the board, but it’s the Chinese market that is holding up strongest,” Dr Hurley said.

“Even if the borders were to open, it’s not clear that the flow will return to the same levels they were at before the pandemic. It might take some time for those people to come back and enrol.”

Luke Sheehy, executive director of the Australian Technology Network, which includes the University of Technology Sydney and RMIT University as members, said Australia was facing “fierce competition” from other countries for Indian students.

“China and India are the two largest markets but clearly they are very different. Indian students want face-to-face teaching, and we haven’t been able to offer that this year. They can’t get here, so they are choosing other options,” Mr Sheehy said.

Education Minister Alan Tudge said overall international student enrolments in universities had declined by 5 per cent in 2020 “with many students from all nationalities continuing their study online”.

International Education Association of Australia chief executive ‎Phil Honeywood said the Indian student market closely followed changes in government policy, which heightened the need for communication around a possible return date.

“Many Indian students were prepared last year to just defer for a 12-month period, but faced with another year of closed borders, they are now jumping on planes to the UK and Canada,” he said.


International students warming to US after Biden victory

We shall see how this affects Canada’s relative position but the largest source country for international students is also India as is the case in the US survey. Certainly the Trump administration did result in increased interest in studying and working in Canada:

International students’ perceptions of the United States as a study destination have significantly improved following the presidential election win by Joe Biden, according to new research by IDP Connect. 

The improved perceptions of the US among students surveyed in early 2021 could impact on the pulling power of rival destination countries Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, the research suggests. 

A survey of more than 800 prospective international students in more than 40 countries who are interested in studying in the US – albeit with more than half of respondents based in India – has found that more than three quarters (76%) have improved perceptions of the US since the 2020 presidential election, with 67% stating they are now more likely to study there. 

“I really hope that the result of the election helps students like me to move to America and pursue our dreams,” said one respondent.

Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, said US higher education institutions should review their marketing and recruitment programmes to take full advantage of the change in perceptions. 

“Since the election in November 2020, we’ve seen higher search activity for the US, with the US now overtaking the UK in regard to international student search volumes.” 

He said: “US universities, colleges and education institutions should be looking at their recruitment strategies and practices to ensure they capture this momentum and support students in their decision-making process.”

When asked how nine key factors would be affected by the Biden administration, respondents expected all to improve, with the welfare of international students, safety of its citizens and visitors, and post-study work visa policies perceived to see the most improvements. 

Furthermore, the majority of students (69%) expected the new presidential administration would have a positive effect on their home country. 

As the students surveyed were at the early stages of their journey, many indicated they are still considering other destinations. Of those surveyed, half (50%) were also considering Canada, while 41% were considering the UK, just over a quarter (28%) were considering Australia and 13% were considering New Zealand as their study destination in addition to the US. 

Increased competition

This suggests that rising demand for study places in the US could mean increased competition for market share among these rival destination countries, the research notes.

The survey also showed that students from Africa were more likely to be exploring their study options in the US and Canada, while Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian students tended to look at the US and UK, IDP Connect said. The country from which students had the most improved perception of the US was Kenya.

A prospective graduate student from Nigeria said: “With this new administration, the United States will favour citizens of my country to study appropriately with due consideration.”

Emmett said the findings of the research are a reminder that students are tuned into global political discussions. 

“Of the students who stated they have a high awareness of US politics, 86% reported a better perception following the election,” Emmett said. 

Respondents were asked to rate how they feel the new administration would affect nine key factors on a scale of 0-10, with 0 representing ‘will become much worse’ and 10 representing ‘will become much better’. Overall, students expect all nine factors to improve. 

This list was topped by ‘welfare of international students’ (7.52), followed by ‘safety of citizens and visitors’ (7.48), ‘post-study work visa policies’ (7.32), ‘economic stability of the US’ (7.28), ‘perceptions of the US overseas’ (7.24), ‘response to coronavirus’ (7.17), ‘political stability of the US’ (7.11), ‘management of social issues, eg community divisions’ (7.10) and ‘travel restriction policies’ (6.94).

Among respondents, 13% indicated they had high awareness of US politics (‘I follow US politics closely’), compared with moderate awareness (34%), low awareness (42%) and no awareness (‘I do not follow US politics’) (11%). 

Biden’s first steps

On his first day in office, Biden revoked former president Donald Trump’s travel bans blocking people from seven mostly Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, a critical first step towards rebuilding the reputation of US higher education in a global context.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), in late November wrote to then President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on behalf of 43 US university associations calling on them to move to ensure that American colleges and universities are “once again, the destination of choice for the world’s best international students and scholars”.

They urged Biden to withdraw Trump administration proposals to limit international students’ duration of stay and make it harder and costlier to obtain H-1B visas, which provide a pathway for foreign-born researchers to stay in the US on a long-term basis.

They also urged him to make it clear that the Optional Practical Training programme would remain in place. 

Biden has since proposed across the board changes to US immigration laws, including a step to make it easier for international graduate students with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the US by exempting them from immigrant visa caps. 

The draft immigration bill also includes permission for ‘dual intent’, which would mean student visa applicants no longer have to promise that they intend to leave the US when they finish their studies. Under the current single intent requirement, nine in 10 visa denials – close to a quarter of all applications – relate to a failure to convince officials that they solely intend to come and study and then leave.

However, it is not clear yet if the bill could garner enough political support.

Emmett said: “While the new administration has a more welcoming stance towards international students than the predecessor, it will be interesting to see if student perceptions of the US as a study destination continue to improve over the long term.”

Motivations for study in US

When asked why they are interested in studying in the US, the top motivation among respondents was ‘quality of teaching compared to my home country’ (64%), ‘modern, progressive, dynamic’ (59%), ‘institution or university of choice is located there’ (46%), ‘availability of part-time work’ (43%), ‘multicultural’ (33%), ‘attractive climate, weather, environment’ (30%), ‘safe country’ (29%), ‘Optional Practical Training or post-study work programme’ (26%), ‘affordable place to live and study’ (18%) and ‘family or friends recommended’ (14%). 

Among those who responded, 51% were interested in graduate programmes, 30% in undergraduate programmes and 19% in other (non-degree) programmes. Their expected start date of studying abroad was April to July 2021 (19%), August to October 2021 (38%), January to March 2022 (12%), April to July 2022 (6%), August to October 2022 (15%) and ‘beyond 2022’ (8%).

The survey results come with the caveat that they are dominated by views of students in India, one of the largest source countries for international students in the US. A majority and by far the largest group of respondents were located in India (483), followed by Kenya (74), Bangladesh (74), Indonesia (50), Egypt (29), Pakistan (27), Nepal (22), Philippines (22), Vietnam (16) and Cambodia (15). 

In 2019-20 the top five source countries for the more than one million international students in the US were: China, 372,532 students (34.6%); India, 193,124 (18%); South Korea, 49,809 (4.6%); Saudi Arabia, 30,957 (2.9%); and Canada, 25,992 (2.4%), according to datafrom the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report.


International students aren’t making as much money as their Canadian classmates in the first years after graduation, report suggests

Significant study on the importance of work experience:

Despite equal Canadian education credentials, international students earn less than their Canadian peers after graduation, Statistics Canada says.

That’s because they fail to secure enough local work experience before they graduate, data from the agency indicates.

International students earned “considerably” less than domestic students during their first five years after graduation, said a report released Wednesday in collaboration with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Fewer years of pre-graduation work experience and lower levels of pre-graduation earnings among international students accounted for most of their observed disadvantage in post-graduation earnings.”

This revelation will be crucial for Canada to address as the federal government has increasingly drawn on its pool of international students as future immigrants. In 2019 alone, more than 58,000 international graduates successfully applied to immigrate permanently.

They are favoured over immigrants who are traditionally selected directly from abroad because they’re generally younger and have more years to contribute to the labour market after immigration. There is also less uncertainty about their quality of education and language ability, and little barrier related to credential recognition when joining the labour force.

Based on Canada’s Post-secondary Student Information System and tax data, researchers compared early labour-market outcomes and sociodemographic information of international students and domestic students who graduated from post-secondary institutions between 2010 and 2012.

International students comprised six per cent or 66,800 of the sample, with Canadian citizen and permanent resident students accounting for 87 per cent and seven per cent of the population (about 927,700 and 71,900), respectively. The classification was based on the students’ immigration status at their time of graduation.

Overall, 43.6 per cent of international students had no Canadian work experience prior to graduation, compared with 2.2 per cent of Canadian citizens and 9.7 per cent of permanent resident students.

The average number of years of pre-graduation work experience was 6.2 for Canadian citizen students, 3.9 for permanent resident students and just 1.2 for international students.

Four in 10 domestic students earned more than $20,000 in a year before graduation, whereas only one in 10 international students did so.

One year after graduation, the income gaps between international graduates and Canadian citizens were larger for graduates with an advanced degree than for their international peers with a lower education. The difference was about 10 per cent for bachelor’s degree holders and 40 per cent for the ones with master’s degrees.

However, by the fifth year, the gap narrowed for international students with graduate degrees, while it increased over time for their peers with a bachelor’s degree or college diploma only.

International students had lower earnings on average than domestic students in many fields of study, with a few exceptions where they had similar earnings: visual and performing arts, and communications technologies; humanities; health and related fields.

For the four most popular fields of study among international students, graduates from the STEM fields (architecture, engineering and related technologies; and mathematics, computer and information sciences) suffered a smaller earnings gap than their non-STEM peers in business, management and public administration; and social and behavioural sciences and law.

The disadvantage faced by international students in securing pre-graduation work experience can be explained by language proficiency, cultural differences, concentration in fields of study, course grades, employers’ reluctance to recruit and train job applicants with temporary residency status, and possible employer discrimination, the study suggested.

“International students may face these barriers when looking for a job while studying, before they formally enter the labour market, and after they graduate,” it said. “Another possible answer is the difference in participation rates between domestic and international students in work-integrated learning (which) provides participating students the benefits of workplace-related skill accumulation and connections to potential employers.”

International students lack knowledge about the local labour market, have limited local networks, and face financial barriers, such as relocation costs and the additional tuition fees required for delayed graduation — all contributing to their lower participation in internship and co-op, said the report.

Although the federal government has relaxed the off-campus employment rules for international students during school year since 2014 by allowing them to work up to 20 hours a week without requiring a work permit, they still have limited access to government-sponsored student hiring programs where priorities are given to Canadians.

“The disadvantage for international students in pre-graduation work experience hampers their ability to compete for a high-paying, high-quality job after graduation,” said the report.

“The results of this study imply that policies to reduce the pre-graduation work-experience gap are crucial to reducing the post-graduation earnings gap between international and domestic students.”

Source: International students aren’t making as much money as their Canadian classmates in the first years after graduation, report suggests