Internationals drove Canadian enrolments pre-Covid

While ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, enrolments in colleges and universities had fallen among domestic students, by -1.8% to 642,093 and -0.4% to 1,142,091, respectively, international students drove enrolments, the Statistics Canada figures revealed.

In 2019/20 – before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic – 153,360 international students enrolled in Canada’s colleges and 235,422 enrolled in the country’s universities. The college numbers represented a 19.5% increase, while the university rise was equivalent to a 10.2% rise.

The increase in international students continue an ongoing trend for the last decade, the agency noted.

Enrolments in universities represented 60.6% of international students in Canada and the remaining 39.4% was at colleges, which have seen a more than doubling over the previous five year.

In 2015/16, 60,318 international students enrolled at Canadian colleges, while 168,606 joined university programs.

The figures also indicated the spread of international students across Canada’s provinces and territories in 2019/20. Almost a third of international college students (29.9%) were in Ontario, while British Columbia hosted 23.3% of the 153,360 total.

Colleges in Saskatchewan (7.4%), Quebec (including CÉGEP—5.0%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2.0%) had far fewer international student enrolments, the agency noted.

While international student enrolments accounted for 19.3% of college students, internationals at university represented 17.1% total enrolments countrywide.

Proportions of international students at university ranged from 27.8% in Prince Edward Island, 26.3% in Nova Scotia and 24.1% in British Columbia, while Alberta had the lowest proportion at 11.5%.

Further analysis released by the agency in August has projected the financial impact of Covid-19 on Canadian universities for the 2020/21 academic year.

It predicted that in the most pessimistic scenario, with a 21.8% drop in international students combined with a 20.1% decrease of domestic students, revenues losses across Canadian universities could reach $2.5 billion.

In the most optimistic scenario, in which international student enrolments decrease by 12.5%, losses would be equal to around 1% of projected total revenues or $438 million at the national level, it found.

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