Canada has always been one of the destinations of choice for international students who aim to get quality higher education. This isn’t a surprise at all since the country has always been a popular tourism and immigration destination.
A recent study by the World Education Services showed that people all over the world have become more interested in immigrating to Canada despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
But why do international students prefer to study in Canada? And why does it show promise as the best international education destination in 2021? This week, we will be looking more closely into this and identifying the top six reasons why Canada is touted as the best country for international students in the coming year.
The Pandemic and International Education
We all know that 2020 has been one of the worst years in recent times. The disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought all over the world is something that all of us have not seen in our lifetime.
But one sector that has experienced more disruption than the rest is the education sector. With the threat of infection looming large in classrooms and campuses, schools had to resort to online classes or even shut down temporarily to mitigate the spread of the virus to students.
International students either had to stay indoors and do their classes remotely or go back to their home countries, put their educational journeys on hold, and wait for the time when the vaccines are rolled out, mobility restrictions are lifted, and it’s once again safe to travel overseas.
But while the pandemic is still ravaging nations around the world, new developments are proving to be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Some countries have started rolling out vaccines and have begun to inoculate their health care workers and other high-risk individuals. One such country is Canada.
In fact, Canada was the second country, behind Britain, to vaccinate its health workers. And this fact may just level up its attraction as an international education destination in the coming year.
The 7 Reasons Why Canada is International Education’s Champion
1. Canada has some of the world’s top universities
The fact is that Canada hosts some of the world’s top universities. Some 30 Canadian institutions are counted among the best in the world, according to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2021, with the country’s top five landing in the world’s top 100 universities list.
As such, Canada offers high-quality education, rivaling the best in all the other major countries in the world. In fact, compared with its neighbor, the US, Canada can also provide cheaper study options, simpler application processes, and more opportunities for permanent residency. And this is why this is the number one reason why Canada continues to be the best country for international education in 2021.
The table below shows the five top Canadian universities and how they fare in world rankings.
2. English is the medium of instruction
We all know that English is the official international medium of instruction. The graph below shows one of the findings in a study conducted by the British Council on English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI).
The graph shows an overwhelming number of institutions all around the world embracing EMI. It is worthy to note, however, that aside from the US and the UK, in which the native language is English, other countries in the study have English as merely the second language.
In turn, in Canada, English and French are both official languages and they share equal status. The good thing is that anywhere you choose to go to Canada, you can easily survive just by speaking and communicating in English. And this is a big plus for international students. While in Canada, you can even seize the opportunity and learn some French or brush up your French language skills.
All universities in Canada offer English-taught degrees for all Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. programs, so one’s main concern is to simply find a field of study according to their preferences.
3. Diversity is a priority
Cultural diversity has always been an integral part of Canada’s character as a nation. In Canada, diversity is welcomed and this is why the international student body in the country feels comfortable in a relatively racism-free environment.
Moreover, according to surveys done by Navitas Insights, Canada is among the top countries considered to be ‘safe and stable’ for international students. Incidentally, the surveys also cited the country as having improved its position as the ‘go-to’ study destination because of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, Canada admitted more than 400,000 international students. The majority of those students came from France, Nigeria, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Brazil, Iran, India, and Vietnam.
Moving forward, Canada aims to strengthen the diversification of its international education initiatives. One key strategy in the country’s International Education Strategy (IES) 2019-2024 is the diversification of the countries from which international students come to Canada, as well as their fields, levels of study, and location of study within Canada.
To implement the strategy, the government of Canada allocated $147.9 million over five years, followed by $8 million per year of ongoing funding.
Currently, more than 50% of Canada’s international students come from two countries, India and China (see chart below). Also, international students are concentrated in large cities in Canada.
The Canadian government aims to diversify their student portfolio better. They believe that attracting students from a wider range of countries would foster sustainable growth of Canada’s international education sector and distribute the benefits more equitably across the country.
4. Students from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have a lot of social support.
In Canada, there is ample support for students from the MENA region. One will likely find Middle Eastern, Persian, Arab, or North African student societies in different universities or colleges in the country.
For instance, the University of Toronto has a Middle Eastern Students’ Association and Ryerson University has an Arab Students’ Association. Moreover, in many of Canada’s cities, you are highly likely to find expats from your own country. Montreal has the local Quebec Islamic Centre while Toronto has the Arab Community Centre of Toronto. The city also boasts a large Iranian diaspora, often referred to as ‘Tehranto.’
5. Permissive study permits
A study permit is a document that the Canadian government issues to allow foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLI) in the country.
Canada’s policies on study permits are relatively permissive in relation to other countries of similar stature. In Canada, a study permit is usually valid for the length of one’s study program, plus an extra 90 days. The 90 days let you prepare to leave Canada or apply to extend your stay.
Most foreign nationals need a study permit to study in Canada. However, there are circumstances in which a foreign student is exempt from this requirement. For instance, individuals are not required to have a study permit to pursue a program of study for six months or less.
Also, minor children residing in Canada may study at a pre-school, primary, or secondary level without a study permit. This applies to the children of temporary students or workers, as well as Canadian citizens and permanent residents. However, this exception does not apply to children of temporary residents or mere visitors who are not authorized to work or study in Canada.
Earlier in the year, the Canadian government announced temporary policy changes to help international students starting a new program online. These measures include the priority processing of study permits who have submitted a complete application online.
There is also a temporary quick two-stage approval process for international students who are unable to submit all of the documentation needed to complete their application, and who choose to pursue programs through distance learning.
There is even a policy that states that international students coming from certain countries are exempt from visas.
6. Financial Support
On top of its excellent education, Canada’s high-quality of life and openness to foreigners make it a great place to be an international student. However, the fact is that international students in Canada still have to pay for their programs, and there are lots of ways to do it.
For one thing, if a student has already been accepted into a school, they should just contact the financial aid office directly to get specific advice about how to pay for their program. They may even be able to steer them towards specific scholarships or other opportunities.
7. Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWP)
One huge perk of studying in Canada is the possibility of getting a work permit after one graduates. International students who will complete their post-secondary education in Canada may apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) to gain Canadian work experience.
The Canadian government provides the PGWP program in its effort to attract more international students and retain them as skilled workers after they finish their studies. The program provides an open work permit, which allows international graduates to work for any Canadian employer in any industry without the requirement of a Canadian job offer at the time of applying.
With all these reasons, it is not a wonder that Canada is poised to become the most popular study destination for international students in 2021. And with the COVID-19 vaccine now being rolled out slowly, the country’s effective controlling of the coronavirus may even be the big deal-maker that maintains Canada solidly in the lead. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)
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Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As the Vice President of MSM Global, she leads MSM’s extensive back-of-the-house operations, including MSM’s human resources, financial management, information technology, and marketing, communications, and social media activities.
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.
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