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

Colleges, universities expecting large financial losses from drop in international students

We shall see over the next month or so when IRCC study permit data for July and August becomes available (July data should be out sometime next week):

Colleges and universities say they’re anticipating financial losses possibly in the billions of dollars due to a drop in international enrolments caused by the global pandemic.

The government of Canada last week took additional steps to make it easier for students to study online from abroad, but the national associations that represent universities and colleges say the losses are still likely to be significant. The associations are lobbying the federal government to make money available for postsecondary institutions.

Denise Amyot, president of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said a mid-June survey showed colleges expected their new international enrolments to fall by two-thirds this term, from about 90,000 to 30,000. It’s still unclear whether those fears will be realized, as data are not yet available, but colleges are hoping the impact will be less than expected, Ms. Amyot said.

“Administrators are worried right now. They’re worried about the financial impact. They’re worried they’ll have fewer programs to offer domestic students,” she said. “Every student counts right now. I can’t think of a better way to put it.”

International students are crucial to university finances because they represent half of all tuition revenue. The impact of the pandemic may be more pronounced for colleges, though, as they tend to offer shorter programs that result in more frequent student turnover.

International students contribute nearly $22-billion a year to the Canadian economy, according to federal government estimates, with billions flowing from postsecondary tuition fees alone. Ms. Amyot said an analysis conducted on behalf of the colleges estimates between $1.8-billion and $3.5-billion in lost revenue, depending on the length and severity of the pandemic.

Universities Canada said it does not yet know the extent of losses across the sector. Some universities, including the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta, said international acceptances are in line with previous years, but numbers aren’t firm as students still have a month to withdraw. And the picture may be quite different from one institution to another.

“We are in active discussions with federal government departments about how we can work together to stabilize from the potential loss of international students,” said Cindy McIntyre, assistant director, international relations at Universities Canada.

Education is primarily a provincial responsibility. Ontario provided an additional $25-million to postsecondary institutions early in the pandemic to cope with some of the additional associated costs. Quebec gave $75-million to institutions and made more money available in student assistance. But the national postsecondary associations are aiming to persuade the federal government to contribute some pandemic-specific funds to the sector, as they did with the $2-billion recently announced for elementary and high schools.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISEDC) said Wednesday that Ottawa is having conversations with the provinces and territories regarding the types of supports that are needed. And Ottawa has since taken steps to ease some of the concerns of institutions, including a two-step process to speed approval for those who want to start their studies online. It has also allowed U.S. students to cross the border as long as they quarantine for 14 days on arrival and increased federal student financial aid.

At the moment only those with permits issued before mid-March whose travel is deemed essential and those from the U.S. are allowed to enter Canada.

Last week, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced measures that will allow students to complete one-year programs online without being penalized on the length of their postgraduate work permit. But the decision many institutions are waiting on is whether other international students with visas processed after mid-March will be allowed to enter the country. At the moment provincial and federal health officials are assessing plans submitted by institutions for the safe isolation of arriving students.

“It’s now too late to get international students here for the start of the fall semester, but many of our institutions still have an interest in seeing international students arrive over the course of the fall,” Ms. McIntyre said.

When asked whether Ottawa would step in with more funding to address the shortfall, ISEDC did not answer the question directly, but pointed to changes the government has already brought in, including $450-million in funding for academic research. IRCC also cited previous measures to help international students.

“Recently, changes were brought forward to give international students more certainty about their ability to enter Canada once travel restrictions are eased in Canada and their home countries,” said Mike Jones, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. “Students who have submitted a complete application will receive priority processing to make sure they can begin their classes while outside Canada, and complete up to 50 per cent of their program from abroad if they can’t travel sooner.”

There were more than 700,000 international students at all levels in 2018, a number that has grown rapidly over the past decade. Normally tens of thousands of new students would be arriving in September, but not this year. At the moment only those with permits issued before mid-March are allowed to enter Canada.

Gautham Kolluri, who runs an international student recruitment company, said students and families are apprehensive about starting an expensive degree at a time when it’s unclear when they will be able to travel to Canada. Many international students pay tuition fees of $20,000 or more, which many plan to partly fund by working part-time while studying.

Mr. Kolluri said he has a few hundred clients who have been accepted by Canadian institutions but he believes a majority will either defer admission or drop those programs in the next month. He thinks only a quarter will pursue their programs online from their home countries.

“They will lose networking opportunities and they will lose the Canadian experience they want, so they will delay and wait and see,” Mr. Kolluri said. “Investing $30,000 without knowing what will happen is a big gamble.”

He said Canada remains a top destination country, as political developments in the U.S. have made it a less desirable option.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-colleges-universities-expecting-large-financial-losses-from-drop-in/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2020-9-3_6&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20U.S.%20cable%20company%20Altice%20and%20Rogers%20table%20$10.3-billion%20bid%20for%20Cogeco&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

‘Billions of dollars are at risk.’ Colleges and universities scramble to protect international student sector amid COVID-19 pandemic

The “education industry” concerns along with the students affected:

When Maria Olaifa was accepted into Fanshawe College’s marketing management program for May she was thrilled, eager to pack her belongings and leave her native Philippines.

But her plans to study at the London, Ont., college were abruptly halted due to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the global COVID-19 health crisis.

“My country has closed its borders and flights are not available,” said Olaifa, 32, of Cebu City. Even if she could come, she’s not sure she would.

“I am afraid to be in a country where I do not know anyone and have nowhere to go during this pandemic,” she told the Star. “I don’t think it would be mentally healthy for me to go to a place for the first time, alone with all these problems.”

Olaifa is among a growing number of international students who intended to come to Canada in the next few months, but are now deferring study plans.

Border closures, flight cancellations, shuttered language testing sites and closed visa offices are posing major challenges. It’s too early to say how many students have deferred or outright cancelled study plans — even those with valid study permits. But a significant decrease in the number of international students at Canadian colleges and universities — a segment that’s been booming in recent years — would deliver a financial blow to schools that rely on their hefty tuition fees as a revenue source.

International students contribute $6 billion a year just in tuition at Canadian universities, but their economic impact extends beyond the campus. Government figures show that in 2018 they pumped $21.6 billion into schools, communities and the broader Canadian economy. As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 498,735 post-secondary international students in Canada, a 14.5 per cent increase from 2018.

As the health crisis drags on, colleges and universities are asking the federal government to allow international students to do online courses while in their own country.

The federal policy typically stipulates that international students must attend most classes in-person to receive a Post-Graduation Work Permit — but there have been recent updates. Those currently in Canada can now do e-learning and have it count towards their work permit, since in-person classes are temporarily cancelled. And on Tuesday the federal government said international students with a study permit for a program starting in May or June, but who can’t get here because of travel restrictions, can complete up to 50 per cent of it online without it impacting eligibility for a work permit.

Kevin Lemkay, press secretary for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, told the Star officials will continue assessing the impact of the current situation and make further adjustments as needed.

President and CEO Denise Amyot of Colleges and Institutes Canada, which represents publicly funded colleges, institutes, CEGEPs and polytechnics, said “important decisions” can now be made about the spring/summer intake. But the fact students can only complete up to 50 per cent of their program outside Canada is too limiting, she said. That means a student in an eight-month postgraduate program would need to be in Canada by the fall.

“We are all faced with a high degree of uncertainty as to how long the pandemic will last and when borders will open, and so we are asking students to make important decisions with incomplete information,” she said, adding they shouldn’t be penalized if unable to travel to Canada.

Amyot’s focus is on supporting international students here or on their way over — those approved for a study permit by March 18 when travel restrictions took effect can still enter Canada if they can get here. But she’s also keeping a close watch abroad, where some language testing and visa offices are closed and has asked the government to loosen testing rules and relax biometric requirements at visa application centres.

“The evolving nature of the situation requires that we engage in constructive dialogue and quickly find solutions to emerging issues, including those related to the ongoing processing of study permits given continued service disruptions.”

For those hoping to start college in September, wondering if they too can do e-learning, Amyot will continue asking the government “for flexibility and for similar measures to be put in place for the fall.”

Paul Davidson, president and CEO of Universities Canada, which advocates for Canadian universities at the federal level, is looking to the fall intake. That’s when 50 per cent of international students enrol in universities and because now is when many are making decisions about where they’ll study in September.

“(If the infection) curve is not flattened, and in the event that visa processing takes a little longer, we would very much like to be able to onboard students online in the fall — its in the realm of contingency planning at this point,” said Davidson. “We want to do everything we can to make sure that Canada is a welcoming place … These next six to eight weeks are critical in terms of what the onboarding and the pipeline will look like for the fall for international students.”

“Billions of dollars are at risk if we’re not able to enrol international students in September,” he said, noting for some universities international students contribute 50 per cent of tuition revenue.

Online registration “will keep the door open to international students to come when it is safe to do so and feasible to do so, in terms of permits and processing.” And, he said, international student enrolment allows schools to offer more courses and labs, which also benefits domestic students.

Cindy McIntyre, assistant director of international relations for Universities Canada, called Tuesday’s announcement a “good first step,” but noted it doesn’t address the fall intake. She said she expects a decision about that cohort will be made “within weeks.”

The British company QS Quacquarelli Symonds, which analyzes global higher education, surveyed 14,416 prospective international students worldwide on the impact of the coronavirus. Among the 2,846 originally planning to come to Canada, 54 per cent intended to defer entry by a year, 9 per cent wanted to study in a different country and 6 per cent wanted to stay in their home country. Cumulatively, the number of lost applicants for Canada — those choosing another country or opting to remain home — is 15 per cent, which is similar to the United Kingdom. By comparison, it is 26 per cent for the European Union, 14 per cent for the United States, and 13 per cent for Australia.

In recent weeks Earl Blaney, a London, Ont., immigration consultant who is an education agent in the Philippines, has had several dozen clients request deferrals for the spring/summer and fall intakes. They were set to attend colleges such as Niagara, Lambton, Georgian, Conestoga, Seneca and Centennial.

He commended the government for giving students set to begin their programs in May or June the flexibility of doing online studies, but noted “it would have been a sensible announcement three weeks ago.”

The “late notice” means many students have likely already made arrangements to travel here and quit jobs back home, while many schools have “initiated a flood of deferral offers to students from May to September.”

“Had this option been available three weeks ago, it would have prevented large losses to the education industry. Schools no longer have the time to market May intake under these circumstances.”

For many international students, one of their biggest concerns is being eligible for a work permit. Blaney suggested Canada — a top choice worldwide — can remain competitive by temporarily letting students enrol in programs from abroad and still issuing work permits upon completion so they can eventually come and work here.

“(That) would allow tuition revenue to keep flowing during this time, and keep everyone safe … It is not meant to be long-term, rather a model of accommodation for both sides.”

A longer-term decision should be made as quickly as possible, he added, because it could impact whether prospective students see Canada as a viable option for 2021 since many start thinking of possible countries, schools and programs a year in advance.

Even for students who can enter Canada — those issued permits before March 18 — Blaney questioned if it’s wise to come, saying it will be tough for schools to accommodate them for the upcoming spring/summer intake because residences are closed and there’s limited staff to assist them.

“International intakes are usually all-hands-on-deck affairs,” said Blaney, referring to in-depth orientation sessions. “In this set of circumstances, students arrive blind and struggle to find their own accommodation. What’s the advantage? Schools get to cash student admission cheques, while the new students get to sit in isolation while taking online studies? Brutal welcome.”

Centennial College teacher RM Kennedy, also chair of the faculty division at OPSEU representing 17,000 unionized college faculty, worries about potential job loss, noting “If enrolment is down, we could see hundreds of contract faculty not being re-employed.”

There’s also a concern about revenue loss, said Kennedy, adding, “We’ve had decades of underfunding and the whole international strategy was designed to make up that shortfall…Without that revenue the colleges are going to take an enormous hit.”

The policy update on Tuesday “may alleviate some short-term financial pressure but it doesn’t address the need to properly fund and rebuild the college system going forward,” said Kennedy, pointing out it’s unclear if international students will even enrol in online programs.

Another concern is that international students invest a great deal in Canadian education and the opportunity to eventually get work permits and permanent residency.

“The exception is currently only for the summer semester, but what if shutdowns continue through the fall?” asked Kennedy. “If we accept international students, we have an ethical responsibility to support them through the completion of their studies with the ability to enter the country and get (work permits).”

International student Amey Jadhav, 27, who is doing a bachelor of business administration program at a Toronto college, was visiting family in India when Canada closed its borders. He could have returned, but decided to skip the upcoming term, despite not knowing how that would impact eligibility for a work permit, which is key because it will help him recoup study costs. He’s completed about half of his program, which costs about $54,000 in total.

“Online courses are a very thoughtful and viable option as it saves time that otherwise would have (been) wasted,” he said, but noted that in-person learning is “much more interactive.”

As for Olaifa, she’s “very happy” those scheduled to start in May or June can do online learning that’s eligible for a work permit. But she’s frustrated the announcement was just made, saying she couldn’t afford to wait for a decision and had to defer study plans until September.

Olaifa has a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman and is currently working as a project director at an advertising agency. Her dream was to complete the one-year graduate certificate program at Fanshawe, which costs $16,000, then get a work permit, and apply for residency. It’s unclear if that dream will become a reality — or if she’ll even pursue her studies in the fall.

“As for online classes, personally, it is not the best time for me to study right now because of the uncertainties.”

Source: ‘Billions of dollars are at risk.’ Colleges and universities scramble to protect international student sector amid COVID-19 pandemic

Trudeau government outlines five-year, $148-million plan to attract more foreign students to Canadian universities

Nice to see the government set out publicly the countries targeted which will allow evaluation of the success of diversification. The line “We don’t want to be poachers of talent, we want to be partners” appears ingenuous.

Courageous for a government to encourage Canadians to study abroad given that a certain percentage will likely remain in other countries to pursue opportunities.

Concerned that more than half of the international students in Canada come from just two countries, China and India, the federal government has pledged nearly $30-million over the next five years to diversify global recruiting efforts in the postsecondary sector.

The government is targeting countries with a large and growing middle class that may not yet have the higher-education capacity to educate all their students, or where the prospect of a Canadian education in English or French holds appeal.

The government said the initial focus of its marketing efforts will be in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco, Turkey, France and Ukraine. It will also aim to attract students to schools outside of Canada’s largest cities, bringing economic benefits to provinces and regions that have tended to receive fewer immigrants.

“We’re really pleased with the countries [the government] has chosen,” said Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, the national lobby group that represents 96 universities across the country.

“We don’t want to be poachers of talent, we want to be partners.”

The government’s efforts to broaden the source countries of international students are part of a five-year, $148-million international education strategy released last week.

The strategy also allocates $95-million to encourage Canadian students to study and build ties abroad, particularly in Asia and Latin America, rather than the common destinations of the U.S., Britain and Australia.

“The higher-education community has been looking for this for about 20 years,” Mr. Davidson said. He cited statistics that show only 11 per cent of Canadian undergraduate students study in another country, lower than in some other wealthy nations.

Mr. Davidson said particular efforts will be focused on opportunities for Indigenous and low-income students, as well as those with disabilities who historically have been less likely to venture abroad for study.

The strategy fits neatly with the government’s skills agenda, Mr. Davidson said. The hope is that a future work force with an international outlook, contacts and cultural fluency in new markets will be a source of strength for Canada. Similarly, some of the international students who study in Canada are expected to apply for and be selected as permanent residents, bringing with them knowledge and networks that extend beyond Canada’s borders.

“International education is an essential pillar of Canada’s long-term competitiveness,” Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification, said in a statement. “Canadians who study abroad gain exposure to new cultures and ideas, stimulating innovation and developing important cross-cultural competencies. Students from abroad who study in Canada bring those same benefits to our shores.”

Last year, India surpassed China as Canada’s top source of foreign students. There were more than 172,000 study permit holders from India in Canada on Dec. 31, 2018, and more than 142,000 from China, each representing slightly more than a quarter of the total of 570,000. Although those countries will continue to figure prominently as source countries for Canada, there is risk associated with such concentration.

There were fears at the height of Canada’s diplomatic conflict with China over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou that China would prevent or discourage students coming to Canada in such large numbers. Many universities expressed anxiety about that possibility last December, having seen a similar scenario play out in Canada’s relations with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis recalled hundreds of students studying in Canada after their government objected to a Canadian government tweet. Some schools lost significant amounts in tuition revenue as a result.

The economic contribution of education has grown rapidly in recent years. International students spent more than $21-billion in Canada in 2018, according to a study by Global Affairs Canada, and had a larger economic impact than exports of auto parts, lumber or aircraft.

The number of foreign study permit holders in Canada has more than doubled since 2012.

Source: Trudeau government outlines five-year, $148-million plan to attract more foreign students to Canadian universities