COVID-19 Unlikely to Stem International Education Growth in Canada: Economist

(June 2020) From $14.5 billion in 2016, the annual spending of international students in Canada has ballooned to $23.6 billion in 2019, a significant 63% growth based on preliminary data that the current COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to dampen.Dr. Roslyn Kunin, former federal government’s regional economist in British Columbia and the Yukon, emphasized the importance of international education as a component of Canada’s export economy. Enrollments continue to grow since the 2008 global financial crisis that badly hit market conditions.The global coronavirus pandemic, although likely to last until 2023 and further intensify competition for foreign students among countries, offers plenty of opportunities to keep Canada desirable to prospective students, Kunin said at a webinar organized by nonprofit professional network GLOW Ed – Global Women in Education and sponsored by global education service provider M Square Media (MSM) last June 17, 2020.

Leading Canadian Export

“If we are going to get through all these difficult times – the international student crisis, the pandemic, the racial issues that have been rearing their ugly heads everywhere – what is going to save us is not hardware, not software, but wetware, which is brainpower,” said Kunin, currently a senior fellow at the Canada West Foundation who runs her own economic consultancy practice. “How do we develop wetware? We do it through education.”

She believes the pandemic is “way too early, way too different, and way too unique” for experts to have any hard and fast forecast right now.

However, Kunin recommends that the international education industry be more independent and diversified in its offerings to suppliers and customers – international students, no matter what country they come from.

The pandemic’s economic impact is expected to last at least until 2023, with a number of large corporations and organizations counting at least until 2024, she added.

Yet apart from keeping Canada a prime destination for students, there is a huge opening to upskill and reskill Canadians. According to Kunin: “There will be little holes to fill inside institutions. Until international student levels are back to levels we want, then maybe we can help fill the holes for people who lost jobs during the pandemic, or whose jobs are likely to be automated and never to return.”

Creating Value

Kunin urged colleges and universities to remember they can “add great value” in institution and program offerings, particularly as they change delivery methods as necessary, no matter if they are universities, community colleges and institutes, or career colleges.

Based on preliminary 2019 data, international students from top 10 sending countries account for almost 80% of all foreign learners in Canada. India leads the list with 219,855 students in Canada in 2019 – a 189% increase from 76,095 in 2016. Next are China, Korea, France, Vietnam, the United States, Iran, Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico.

Indian students surpassed those from China in 2018, where Canada earned 167% more dollars exporting education than it did with traditional exports to India.

MSM, which builds global and in-country offices and manages agents on behalf of partner universities, sent 6,500 international students to 20 Canadian institutions, serving as the largest entity in its space.

“No matter their size or type, it’s time for institutions to diversify international student enrollment and tap into non-traditional sources of international revenues,” said Donna Hooker, President of MSM’s education management arm MSM Higher Ed.

Instead of calling it an economic recession, Kunin dubbed the present situation a “timeout,” an “induced coma” that has stopped people for a while. “But we’re not going into a long serious depression because the government has been pouring money into people’s pockets,” she said.

Established in 2015, GLOW Ed seeks to inspire and mentor women from around the globe in the field of international education including those new to the field, at mid-career and those in senior roles. Membership includes presidents, senior leaders, faculty and administrators, recruiters, student service and support staff, agents, government representatives, and researchers and academics.

Discover MSM’s industry-focused MSM Live! webinars and interactive series, and know more about how to register to become a GLOW Ed member.


About M Square Media

M Square Media (MSM) is a leading service provider in international education and other sectors. We offer a wide range of global business solutions to clients including, international business development, market research and deep opportunity analysis, sourcing sales channel partnerships, market entry strategy, market expansion, lead generation, brand development, finance and accounting management, payroll and expense management, tax compliance and corporate administrative services, staff recruitment, local representation, HR support, and ready-to-go office space. Read more about MSM.

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