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

Dependent on foreign students, Canada universities risk revenues as vaccines lag

More on the impact on university revenues from COVID-19 travel restrictions and a reference to how Canada’s currently lower vaccination rate may affect Canada’s relative competitiveness in attracting international students:

Public universities have become increasingly dependent on foreign students, who pay far higher tuition than domestic students, to boost their profits. International enrollment jumped 45% over the last five years, advocacy group Universities Canada said, but it fell 2.1% this year amid coronavirus restrictions.

Reuters Graphic

That decline, coupled with a sharp fall in revenues from campus services like conferences, dorms, food halls and parking, has hit the schools hard. Canada’s slow vaccine campaign – it currently lags well behind global peers on inoculations – and the emergence of new variants, could extend the slump in enrollment and campus revenues into the next year school, experts warn.

“Overall, we are expecting universities to post consolidated deficits this year,” said Michael Yake, a senior analyst with rating agency Moody’s.

It is still too soon to know the final impact of COVID-19 on the current year. The University of British Columbia, for example, is projecting a deficit of C$225 million ($177.2 million) this year compared with a C$60 million surplus budgeted pre-COVID-19. And the uncertainty will continue.

“We’re not assuming the vaccine is going to be in place for the fall,” Yake added. “Even if in Canada the vaccines are available, that doesn’t means it’s going to be available for the international students.”


While most of Canada’s universities are well positioned to weather the COVID-19 storm, an unexpected move by Laurentian University in Ontario to file for creditor protection this month has sparked concerns. Experts says that while Laurentian’s situation is unique, other schools also face cost pressures and some may be too reliant on foreign tuition.

International students brought in almost C$4 billion in annual revenue for Canadian universities in 2017/18, the most recent data from Statistics Canada showed. On average, they pay five times the tuition of domestic students and account for nearly 40% of all tuition fees.

Reuters Graphic

At Canada’s top three ranked universities, foreign students make up at least a quarter of the student body. Many stay in Canada after graduation and contribute to economic growth.

Canada did stave off a feared enrollment plunge this year, in part because the federal government made it easier for international students to get work permits after graduation, but the huge gains in foreign students of the previous five years are likely over.

Indeed a trend that saw many international students choose Canada over the United States in recent years could reverse as U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration overhauls the U.S. immigration.

“Something that’s benefited Canada for some time is the political environment in the U.S., as it drove more international students to Canada,” said Travis Shaw, a senior analyst at rating agency DBRS Morningstar.

The change of administration “probably means we’ve got more competition for those international students in the years ahead,” he said.

An increase in domestic students could offset some of the need for new foreign students, but their lower tuition fees will create a significant financial gap. Other cost-saving alternatives might include reducing course offerings and consolidating smaller schools.

And while international enrollment is expected to stabilize as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the longer the pandemic drags on, the greater the risk that more international students will go elsewhere to study, particularly if competitor campuses are able to safely reopen before those in Canada.

“Most students want to come to Canada for the student experience. If a student experience does not seem viable over the term of the course, it is sure to be a deterrent,” said Aditi Joshi, an analyst at DBRS Morningstar.


Canada’s immigration policies create discriminatory outcomes for African applicants, critics say

All immigration policies and programs have discriminatory criteria in terms of whom they select and whom they refuse as part of managing borders, contributions and impacts. Financial resources of international students and the requirement to leave at the end of the studies (unless they transition to permanent residency) are legitimate criteria even if they discriminate against those with fewer financial resources.

So the question always revolves whether the criteria strike the appropriate balance between admitting permanent and temporary residents (along with visitor visas). Different groups will advocate for more open or more closed policies.

In the case of international students, who have an easier path towards transitioning to permanent residency, with students being about half of all transitions. So a more interesting data question would be to look at the country of citizenship of those students transitioning and assess the common factors of those who successfully transition: 

Canada must apply a racial lens to its goal of increasing francophone immigration, and address why officials are refusing visas and study permits to African countries at higher rates, say immigration critics, if it has any hope of meeting its French-speaking targets.

MPs and immigration advocates said they’ve repeatedly warned Ottawa that a section on issuing study permits is leading to discriminatory practice on who gets approved, and creating higher rejection rates for African students that they worry will only worsen amid pandemic-driven backlogs. They said the condition under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (specifically, subsection 216(1)) that the officer must be confident the applicant will leave Canada by the end of their studies, and financial requirements stipulating whether they are eligible to study in Canada, should be removed and are unfair.

These requirements, they contend, are leading Canada to fail to meet its own targets to attract French speakers to live and stay in Canada. In the 2019-20 report on departmental targets, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said 1.8 per cent of permanent residents admitted to Canada, outside Quebec, identified as French-speaking, despite a target of reaching 4.4 per cent. That’s slightly fewer than the 2.8 per cent of permanent residents outside of Quebec who speak French, with both goals among the third of the department’s performance targets missed during the last fiscal year. In Quebec’s case, Bloc Québécois MP Christine Normandin (Saint-Jean, Que.) said, often, the province wants students to stay, contrary to the IRCC requirement that they be expected to leave at the end of their permit.

Canada should look at suspending use of that provision, said NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.).

“There’s definitely a disconnect with the reality of what’s happening, versus what Canada claims and what our government claims that they want to achieve,” said Ms. Kwan. She called on Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.) to ask the “hard questions” about the barriers preventing IRCC from achieving its own objectives.

It’s apparent the government wants to push francophone immigration, but to succeed, Canada needs to take a “deep look” at where the source countries are, and what type of programs are in place to facilitate immigration, said Will Tao, a B.C.-based immigration lawyer. African nations make up more than a quarter of the 88 La Francophonie members, for example, and constitute a large pool of potential applicants to Canada.

In a December 2020 submission to the House Immigration Committee, the non-profit Arenous Foundation, which Mr. Tao helped launch, wrote it was “deeply concerned” that anti-Black racism continues to lead to high refusal rates from African and global South countries.

In 2019, 75 per cent of African study permits were refused, compared to 39 per cent as the global rejection, the report noted, citing an analysis by the news site Polestar Immigration. Arenous’ numbers suggest COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation, and that countries with 70 per cent or higher refusal rates continue to disproportionately represent the same African and global south countries.

“When we look at this—the government’s plan to bring more francophone students—you can’t remove that race lens,” he said, and one of the biggest barriers in reaching that goal is Canada’s high rates of refusal for international students from francophone-speaking African countries.

Pointing to Canada’s poor history with Black immigrants—including a 1911 government order that denied Black people entry to Canada on the basis of climate unsuitability—the report said “it is incumbent on Canadian immigration to explore how to create a more racially just, anti-racist framework for assessing [temporary resident visas] and study permits from African countries.”

Though some efforts have been made through the student-direct stream, Mr. Tao said, prioritizing a limited subset of candidates from French-speaking countries won’t bring a greater, more diverse group of students. The IRCC added Morocco, Pakistan, and Senegal in September 2019 to facilitate more francophone markets.

The IRCC has a francophone immigration strategy that aims to attract more French-speaking foreign nationals to Canada. It has “intensified its year-round promotion and recruitment support activities,” said IRCC spokesperson Lauren Sankey in an email.

She said Canada is committed to “a fair and non-discriminatory application of immigration procedures,” and that anyone can apply if they meet the necessary qualifications.

“All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria. … Admissibility factors, such as having adequate resources to support yourself in Canada or showing that you would leave Canada if your authorized stay ends in the future, are common to many types of applications,” Ms. Sankey said. She added applicants aren’t refused if they intend to apply for permanent residence in the future.

Officers assessing whether a temporary resident application is “genuine” will consider applicants’ ties to their home country and their overall economic and political stability, their family and economic situation, and the purpose of the visit.

A study-permit applicant, meanwhile, needs to demonstrate they have the financial resources for their first year in Canada and a likelihood that they’ll continue to have adequate resources in future years. Ms. Kwan and Ms. Normandin said the House Immigration Committee, which they sit on, heard that applicants have been refused even when awarded scholarships or bursaries from colleges or the province.


Quebec colleges are “losing the race” to attract French-speaking students, and it’s long been an issue, said Ms. Normandin.

“Not only do we want these students to come, but we want to keep them after,” she said. In some cases, she added, students will have additional financial support from the province or universities, but that isn’t taken into account. “It’s really ironic the way it’s dealt with.”

Students coming from poorer nations may have a harder time proving they have sufficient assets to sustain their living while they are here, and to prove that they will come back to their country after they’re done, she noted. During the House committee’s recent study on the impacts of COVID-19 on immigration, she said, she was surprised to see how widespread the problem is, and that institutions outside of Quebec are experiencing the same issues.

While the language of the regulations don’t identify or isolate specific nations, the “result is discriminatory,” she said, and limits the students who are considered eligible from an already small French-speaking pool of potential recruits.

Applicants can also be rejected if the officer has reason to believe the applicant won’t respect the end of their authorized stay in the future, Ms. Sankey said. To Ms. Kwan, it seems “assumptions” are being made about who is more likely to comply with the rules of their visas given the “stark” contrast when you compare acceptance for African countries to arrivals from Europe.

“It seems that students from particular countries are routinely denied,” she said. “Perhaps there’s something wrong how that section is being applied.”

Canada’s approach to Haitian refugees might serve as an example, said Jamie Liew, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

Even as record numbers come from the French-speaking nation—often irregularly across the United States border—she said barriers are “increasingly put in place that prevent people from certain francophone countries from accessing our borders.” And while she lauded Canada’s massive effort to resettle Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016, she worried whether it led to longer processing times in some African nations with French-speaking populations with similarly acute needs, including the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Djibouti.

If Canada wants to targets certain migrants, like francophones, she said, “we have to keep in mind where they are, who they are, and how does that fit with humanitarian objectives as well.”

“Some of these people are skilled workers, and I think we need to be more aware about how processing is being done and who’s applying,” she added.

Green MP Jennica Atwin (Fredericton, N.B.) questioned Mr. Mendicino in November on whether the 4.4 per cent target was an adequate goal for French speakers outside of Quebec. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province.

“The latest numbers show the government isn’t even close to that target,” she said, and that was before the pandemic-driven backlogs.

“Clearly, more needs to be done to ease pathways to Canada from countries with French-speaking populations, including many African nations,” she added. “As we explore and confront systemic racism in Canadian policing, justice, and health systems, we need to confront it in our immigration policies and procedures. Why are African visas rejected at a higher rate than the global average? That’s a very good question.”

Source: Canada’s immigration policies create discriminatory outcomes for African applicants, critics say

Australia: Minister has no timeline for return of foreign students

Of note. Will see when and how Australia ramps up post-COVID:

Australia’s universities have no idea when foreign students and their millions of dollars in tuition fees will start returning to their campuses and the federal government can’t help them. 

Vice-chancellors are in the dark, unable to prepare their campuses, while thousands of lecturers anxiously wait to learn if they will have a job this year – or not.

The federal government has no timeline for when international students can return to Australia so the vice-chancellors “must take it week by week at this stage”, as one commented, with universities preparing for the start of the new academic year in early March.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge says that until a rollout of a COVID vaccine is available domestically, international student numbers will not return to their pre-pandemic levels.

In a radio interview, Tudge said he was open to alternative plans from the states and territories for safely bringing foreign students to Australia.

“It’s very difficult to predict. Ordinarily, we have about 185,000 students who would cross the borders and come into Australia to start at the beginning of the academic year, and about the same number again in the middle of the year,” he said.

“When we can get back to those types of numbers I don’t know. We’re really taking it week by week and month by month.”

Tudge said a big factor was the role of the coronavirus vaccine and how effective it would be: “Should it be effective, that would make a big difference and universities could begin enrolling thousands of foreign students again.”

Insufficient quarantining arrangements

If the states and territories had plans for safely bringing students to Australia, the federal government would consider them, he said.

“We’re open to looking at all options, but we’re asking the education providers to work with the state governments, come up with their plans, get the tick-off by their state chief medical officers, and then present them to us. 

“That’s the process. Now, the state governments are working through those things, along with the higher education providers, but we’re not at that stage yet where we’re in the position to be able to have significant quarantining arrangements for those international students.

“I would say, though, that what gives me a bit of hope is that if the vaccine is effective and even it’s rolled out only partially in some of the major source countries, and if those students have been vaccinated, then there’s the potential for them to come into Australia without having to quarantine.”

The government would have to be sure that the vaccines worked, that the students had been vaccinated with a proper vaccine, and that they were safe to come into the country, Tudge said.

As the minister pointed out, foreign students and the fees they paid had become an AU$40 billion (US$30.6 billion) a year industry for Australian universities. It was the nation’s fourth-biggest export industry and it supported 250,000 jobs. 

“If I can be slightly optimistic, we still have a lot of enrolments into our universities of students who are offshore, but now studying online. And we’ve made a lot of changes to facilitate that, as have the universities and higher education providers themselves.”

Foreign enrolments falling

Tudge said foreign student enrolments at the end of last year were only down about 5% in the public universities, whereas the more significant decline had occurred among the private higher education providers. 

“They’ve had about a 30% to 40% enrolment decline. And they’re the ones that are probably hurting the most at the moment, along with some of the English language providers. 

“The public universities and some of the colleges are down, but not too much. We are obviously keeping a very close eye on what the enrolments look like in this academic year.”

Universities were all looking at how to recover and do things differently in the absence of the same level of international students of the past few years, he said. 

“We’re assisting with that process as well. We put an extra billion dollars in research dollars last year as well as 30,000 more places for Australian students this year, which helps their revenue as well.”

Increased domestic enrolment

Tudge said the universities now had more domestic students enrolling because of the measures the government had put in place and he was hopeful that international student numbers would remain as they were.

“I hope they do come back because they have been very good for Australia, for our economy, for our society. We want to get those numbers back and I’m going to be working with the sector to do so. 

“But we’ve got to take it very carefully, guided by the health advice. Obviously, overseas Australians are keen to come back as well and they get priority over the existing quarantine arrangements. But I’m still hopeful that at some stage, we will be able to get more significant numbers of foreign students,” he said.


New work permit program for international graduates in Canada taking applications

Makes sense, given that they are already here in Canada and thus unaffected by travel restrictions, not to mention being familiar with Canada with fewer integration challenges:

A new work-permit program aimed at encouraging international students to settle in Canada opened for applications Wednesday, offering hope to some eager graduates who were still seeking more details on the program.

The federal government announced the program this month after international students argued the pandemic had disrupted the job market, making it hard to gain work experience required to apply for permanent residency before their permits expired.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the new permit offers people more time to find work in Canada after graduating from post-secondary studies.

Former students with post-graduation work permits that have expired or will soon expire can now apply for open work permits.

Under the new program, people have 18 more months to stay in the country to look for work.

The federal department estimates that about 52,000 graduates could benefit.

Shiva Montazeri, a Brock University graduate originally from Iran, said Wednesday that she felt relief again after a difficult year.

Montazeri, 37, said she lost eight months of work before her permit expired in October, and she was “happy and surprised” when the government announced the open work permit program this month.

She plans to apply, and is eager to accept a recent job offer for an online teaching position. But she still had uncertainties Wednesday about whether her husband is also eligible to apply for a work permit, and how soon after applying she can start working.

“We were impacted in a very bad way. Now are hopeful again, because we can apply for a new work permit,” she said by phone from St. Catharines, Ont. “But still, we have some concerns.”

Post-graduation work permits allow international graduates to gain work experience in “skilled” Canadian jobs and later apply for permanent residence in the country.

Sarom Rho, who leads a migrant student campaign with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the change is a major win for the thousands of people who feared potential deportation once their non-renewable permits expired.

“This is a massive change and it’s absolutely a step in the right direction,” Rho said in an interview.

“However, there are many who are still left behind.”

Some people whose permits were near expiring have already left the country and can’t apply under the new rules, Rho said, or they went home to visit their families and have been unable to return due to travel restrictions.

Others whose permits are set to expire after November 2021 are also ineligible to apply, Rho said.

Rho’s group, Migrant Students United, also wants Ottawa to consider hours worked in essential jobs unrelated to graduates’ programs of study towards their permanent residency applications.

The group is holding an online session Thursday to take field questions about the program and how to apply.

Source: New work permit program for international graduates in Canada taking applications