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Canada’s Capacity for International Student Enrollment

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada - The Illuminate Consulting Group, November 2011

Key Findings

Canada has become a leading destination for international students after years of strong and sustained enrollment growth.  With most but all indicators suggesting continued growth, the question has arisen whether international students could potentially interfere with the capacity levels of Canadian education institutions.

To answer this question, research undertaken for this report pursued a number of analytical venues.  These included placing Canada in an international perspective, building scenarios based on demographics and participation rates, and breaking down the Canada-focused capacity analysis across multiple dimensions such as by Province, sector, and degree level.

The report’s key findings reflecting on the above question include:

  • In comparison to other student destination countries such as Australia, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom, Canada displays no notable capacity issues regarding international higher education students at a national level.
  • Based on calculated scenarios, Canada at a national level will not face any capacity issues well into the near future (2020). 
  • While international student enrollment levels differ at provincial levels, data and analysis do not indicate capacity issues either. 
  • Relative enrollment levels and/or overall enrollments in some smaller provinces (population-wise) are very low in international comparison (and relative to larger provinces), allowing for sustained growth opportunities.
  • Enrollment levels in certain metro areas (and specific institutions) are reaching elevated levels in the Canadian context, suggesting cluster effects.  However, in international comparison, these levels are not unusual.
  • At the K-12 level, international students account for a very small share of enrollments.  Given demographic trends, higher enrollments would be desirable.
  • International graduate student enrollment levels outpace undergraduate enrollment levels, yet appear still too low to satisfy Canada’s current and future work force and innovation needs.
  • Key consideration should be given to the compound enrollment level of international students and landed immigrants.
  • Research and analysis is hampered by a notable lack of data on international students and, even more pronounced, landed immigrants (students).

In final summation, the issue to be faced is not capacity itself, but how capacity is being managed to maintain Canada’s reputation for quality.

To receive the complete report, please email Edu-Canada at: edu-canada@international.gc.ca.

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Date Modified:
2013-01-25