As Canada maintains its spot among the top destinations for international students, it continues to draw learners from all over the world. From being one of the most ideal study locations for Indians, French, or even Americans, the country has successfully established this position among Asians.
In the past, we talked about the emerging Southeast Asian market, listed which countries from the region send the most students to Canada, and then looked at the study permit trends in recent years. In this article, we will delve into the study permit issuance trends in one of Canada’s most important student markets – Iran. We will also list down the top considerations of Iranian students on why they prefer Canada as a study destination
- Iranians make up two percent of Canada’s total international student population with roughly 11,600 students as of 2020.
- The number of study permits issued to Iranians quadrupled from only about 3,000 in 2015 to nearly 12, 000 in 2019.
- Iranian students are increasingly drawn to Canada due to the US’ Trump-era travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries in 2017.
- A year after the US travel ban was imposed, Iranian students became the second-fastest growing group of international students in Canada.
In the past five years, Iran has been one of the most consistent countries landing a spot in Canada’s top 10 sources of international students. One reason why Iranian students were increasingly drawn to Canada in recent years was US President Donald Trump’s travel ban against Iranian nationals.
Imposed in 2017, Trump’s executive orders placed stringent travel restrictions to the US for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and other Muslim-majority countries. The ban resulted in many Iranian international students turning to Canada as their host country because it was so difficult for them to count on getting into the United States.
The number of study permits issued to Iranians quadrupled to nearly 10,000 in 2019 compared to the number in 2015. It had been constantly rising until the pandemic in 2020 halted the trend.
Data from the Canadian Bureau for International Education found that Iranians make up two percent of Canada’s total international student population with roughly 11,600 students as of 2020. The organization has also found that in 2017-2018, Iranian students were the second-fastest growing group of international students in the country.
Based on a study conducted in 2017, here are the factors influencing the international higher education choice of Iranian students:
1. Quality of Education
Iranian students look for opportunities to enter internationally accredited tertiary institutions that offer high-quality education and predominantly use English as the medium of instruction. As they prepare for their future occupations, students aim to gain a global perspective regarding their respective industries before entering the labor market. University and college programs available in Canada are viewed by Iranian students as ideal to prepare them for the global job market.
2. Affordable Cost of Education & Availability of Scholarships
Due to the imposition of sanctions against Iran, economic restrictions have increased for the general public, especially for university students. Iranian public universities are said to be insufficiently funded due to governmental budgetary constraints and this lack of financial support for state universities has forced underprivileged students to also look for employment while pursuing their studies.
Consequently, many local students are fervently looking for scholarships especially for study abroad programs, and some of them, fortunately, have found it in Canadian institutions. Even without the financial aid, Iranian students also find the cost of education and living in Canada more affordable than in the United States or European countries.
3. Economic and Political Environment of Iran
We all know that the economic and political environment of Iran has been unstable for the past decade, resulting in general dissatisfaction among university students regarding their own country’s economic and political future. The politicized environment of major public universities in Iran has pushed students to dream more about studying in an environment free of intense political and social issues.
In Iran, all males are required to do mandatory military service after turning 18. This service is an issue for young Iranian men and is sometimes considered as an interruption, as they are obliged to serve in the military after finishing their secondary studies and before entering the labor market. This is one of the legal forces in Iran that motivate male students to pursue international higher education as a means to evade or postpone this mandatory service.
Canada is viewed as a welcoming country rich in multicultural communities. This is the most ideal for Iranian students looking to be free from the politics in their homeland.
In recent years, Canada has become not only a preferred study destination among Iranian students but a place for refuge for those students who are seeking to be free from the highly political environment in their home country.
Aside from the welcoming culture of Canada, the country has successfully maintained high-quality yet affordable education for international students. Iranian students also highly regard the relatively lower cost of living, faster visa processing, and availability of study-work programs that accentuate the career prospects of foreign learners.
With all these, Iranian students see Canada as an ideal place to get a top-notch education. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)
Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As president of MSM GMO, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray in edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each GMO partner institution, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.
She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.
Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.
El-Assal, K. (2020, February 13). Canada welcomed more than 400,000 new international students in 2019. CIC News.
International Students in Canada. CBIE. (2021, February 25).
Nafaril, J., Arab, A., Ghaffari, S. (n.d.) Through the Looking Glass: Analysis of Factors Influencing Iranian Student’s Study Abroad Motivations and Destination Choice. Retrieved from
Project Atlas. The Power of International Education. (n.d.).