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Economic Impact of International Education in Canada - An Update

4. Number of International Students in Canada

In this Section, we will analyse data we have collected on the number of international students in Canada, as well as growth trends in recent years.

4.1. By Level of Education

4.1.1. Long Term Students

Table 3 shows the total number of international students in Canada (as of December 1st of each year) in each of the five levels of study from 2000 to 2010.[4] For a description of the sources for this data-set, refer to Enrollment in the Methodology section.

Table 3 Number of International Students in Canada by Level of Study, 2000 to 2010
Level
of study
20002001200220032004200520062007200820092010
Secondary
or less  
27,99731,66932,59031,61430,76330,51732,54634,48034,39034,51035,140
Trade 16,50420,12722,85724,71725,17924,07922,58121,55318,92321,13020,240
University 53,16863,61372,97081,11788,64791,72792,86594,62195,404109,665116,890
Other post
-secondary 
9,09212,78514,48515,80113,91014,50615,82319,37522,72623,39036,900
Other 7,2188,4527,5886,4356,3246,3256,3406,0606,6727,3159,045
Total 114,093136,716150,552159,727164,855167,188170,194176,116178,227196,030218,245

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Over this period, the number of international students in Canada has increased at an average growth rate of 7% per year. Students classified under the “Other Post Secondary” category have grown the fastest, at a rate of 15% per year, followed by those students classified in the “University” category, with an annual growth rate of 8%. Students who pursue study in the K-12 system have grown at a rate of 2% per year during this period, the same as those in the “trade” and “other” levels of study.

It should also be noted that between 2000 and 2003, enrolment of international students at the university level experienced double-digit annual growth rates. However, in recent years since 2005, it has not grown as fast as the average for all students.

Enrolment of international students in vocational trade colleges also enjoyed strong double-digit annual growth up to 2003. However, enrolment of students at this level of study has been declining steadily since 2004 and continued into 2010.

Table 4 indicates the distribution of international students in Canada at different levels of study. The information in this Table has been derived based on the stock of international students as of December 1st of each year reported by CIC.

Table 4 Distribution of International Students in Canada by Level of Study, 2000 to 2010
Distribution20002001200220032004200520062007200820092010
Secondary
or less  
24.5%23.2%21.6%19.8%18.7%18.3%19.1%19.6%19.3%17.6%16.1%
Trade 14.5%14.7%15.2%15.5%15.3%14.4%13.3%12.2%10.6%10.8%9.3%
University 46.6%46.5%48.5%50.8%53.8%54.9%54.6%53.7%53.5%55.9%53.6%
Other post
-secondary 
8.0%9.4%9.6%9.9%8.4%8.7%9.3%11.0%12.8%11.9%16.9%
Other 6.3%6.2%5.0%4.0%3.8%3.8%3.7%3.4%3.7%3.7%4.1%
Total 100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Data in Table 4 also indicate that Canada’s universities are most attractive to international students when we compare students in different levels of study. Together with other colleges, students in the post secondary system account for almost four-fifths (79.7% in 2010) of all international students in Canada who pursue study for more than six months.

4.1.2. Languages Canada Short Term Students

As described in the Methodology section, for international students who generally study for shorter than six months in Canada, and therefore would not have required a Study Permit issued by CIC, we have relied upon information provided to us by Languages Canada.  In 2010, Languages Canada surveyed their membership and, of the 154 institutions that replied, responses indicated enrollment of 136,906 students (representing 1,639,793 study weeks).  Of this number at least 110,157 students (almost 81%) were on short term programs of under 6 months (not all programs were able to report the breakdown of their study weeks by length of study). These numbers are for a combination of private post-secondary and public post-secondary non-credit language programs.

Therefore, using information provided by Languages Canada, it is estimated that a total of 1,134,638 student weeks were spent in Canada by international students in short term language training programs in 2010.

We note that Languages Canada does not have all language training institutions in Canada in its membership.  We further note that since there is no reliable data indicating the number of short-term international students enrolling in vocational training or other types of training, we have not been able to estimate the number of short-term international students other than those covered by Languages Canada.

4.2. By Province / Territory

4.2.1. Long Term Students

CIC data also provide a breakdown of the number of international students by province / territory. 

Table 4 shows the number of international students in each of the provinces and territories in Canada between 2004 and 2010 (as measured by the stock of international students on December 1st each year). Of all the provinces and territories, international students to Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island have shown the strongest growth in enrollment in recent years, at a rate of 10.9% and 15.4% respectively, but starting from a small base number.  Nova Scotia is the third in line, with an annual growth rate of 6.4% per year over the period.

Table 5 Number of International Students in Canada by Province and Territory, 2004 to 2010 
 2004200520062007200820092010
Newfoundland
and Labrador 
9151,0491,2031,3821,5241,5251,700
Prince Edward Island 309345405476521655730
Nova Scotia 5,4645,4615,4755,4445,8026,6107,920
New Brunswick 3,1933,2423,1813,2283,2633,2853,515
Quebec 25,47225,20625,91427,09528,01030,57532,225
Ontario 62,26662,83463,81565,51765,83372,96085,280
Manitoba 4,7624,9725,1475,2564,8735,3855,710
Saskatchewan 3,6303,7343,4933,5363,6563,9654,340
Alberta 12,02312,43112,96513,84614,43315,56016,290
British Columbia 46,70747,77748,46350,19850,22155,45060,470
Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut971118593877560
Total164,838167,162170,146176,077178,227196,030218,245

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Because of its geographic size and the number of educational institutions, Ontario attracts the largest number of international students amongst all provinces and territories.  It takes almost 40% of all international students in Canada.  Although British Columbia only accounts for about 13% of the national population, it accounts for about 28% of the international students in the country, indicating the popularity of the province as an education destination.

Quebec, being the second most populous province in the country, accounts for almost 15% of the total number of international students in the country. Other provinces, especially the Maritime Provinces, have grown the number of international students in the region in recent years, although their share of the total number of international students remains relatively small.  Information describing the distribution of international students in Canada by province/territory can be found in Table 6. 

Table 6 Distribution of International Students in Canada by Province and Territory, 2004 to 2010
 2004200520062007200820092010
Newfoundland
and Labrador 
0.6%0.6%0.7%0.8%0.9%0.8%0.8%
Prince Edward Island 0.2%0.2%0.2%0.3%0.3%0.3%0.3%
Nova Scotia 3.3%3.3%3.2%3.1%3.3%3.4%3.6%
New Brunswick 1.9%1.9%1.9%1.8%1.8%1.7%1.6%
Quebec 15.5%15.1%15.2%15.4%15.7%15.6%14.8%
Ontario 37.8%37.6%37.5%37.2%36.9%37.2%39.1%
Manitoba 2.9%3.0%3.0%3.0%2.7%2.7%2.6%
Saskatchewan 2.2%2.2%2.1%2.0%2.1%2.0%2.0%
Alberta 7.3%7.4%7.6%7.9%8.1%7.9%7.5%
British Columbia 28.3%28.6%28.5%28.5%28.2%28.3%27.7%
Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut0.1%0.1%0.0%0.1%0.0%0.0%0.0%
Total100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

4.2.2. Languages Canada Short Term Students

In this subsection, we show the number of Languages Canada students pursuing language training, as well as the number of student weeks, in Canada, by region.

Table 7 Number of International Students in Canada in Language Training Programs, by Region, 2010
 StudentsWeeksStudents
<4 weeks
Students
4-12 weeks
Students
13-24 weeks
Students
25-36 weeks
Students
37-52 weeks
Students
>1year
Alberta9,573100,0496236,23482769041521
BC60,777669,0588,22727,11817,07411,4727,848188
SK and MB2,23826,2074544055434819436
ON50,269643,8966,50620,21210,7115,3651,891284
QC10,314107,4871,4305,9062,339546912
NS2,93765,210104767805471595195
Rest of
ATLANTIC
79827,886129743265552
Total136,9061,639,79317,06460,75132,34218,89811,589728

Source: Languages Canada

Data in Table 7 show the number of students in each province/region who pursued language training courses in 2010 by the length of their programs.  The total number of students (136,906) compared to the student weeks represented indicate that on average, these international students study for approximately 12 weeks in their programs.

It should be noted that, of 136,906 students, at least 110,157 students (almost 81%) were on short term programs of under 6 months (those in the columns "< 4 weeks", "4 to 12 weeks" and "13 to 24 weeks").  These represent 1,134,638 student weeks which is the number we will use in calculating expenditure for short term students later in Section 6.

As can be seen in Table 8, the percentage of international students in Languages Canada training programs is the largest in the province of BC, followed by in Ontario.  Data in Table 8 also indicates that the average length of study of these international students is the longest in the Atlantic Provinces.  In fact, their average length of study is 35 weeks, compared with the 11 to 12 weeks in other parts of the country.

Table 8 Distribution of International Students in Canada in Language Training Programs, by Region, 2010
 StudentsWeeksStudents
<4 weeks
Students
4-12 weeks
Students
13-24 weeks
Students
25-36weeks
Students
37-52 weeks
Students
>1year
Alberta7.0%6.1%3.7%10.3%2.6%3.7%3.6%2.9%
BC44.4%40.8%48.2%44.6%52.8%60.7%67.7%25.8%
SK and MB1.6%1.6%0.3%0.7%1.7%1.8%1.7%4.9%
ON36.7%39.3%38.1%33.3%33.1%28.4%16.3%39.0%
QC7.5%6.6%8.4%9.7%7.2%2.9%0.8%0.3%
NS2.1%4.0%0.6%1.3%2.5%2.5%5.1%26.8%
Rest of
ATLANTIC
0.6%1.7%0.8%0.1%0.1%0.0%4.8%0.3%
Total100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%100.0%

Source: Languages Canada

4.3. By Province / Territory and by Level of Education

4.3.1. Long Term Students

We have also obtained information from Citizenship and Immigration Canada on international student enrollment by province and by level of study. For the year 2010, the information is shown in Table 9.  

Table 9 Number of International Students in Canada by Level of Study, by Province and Territory, 2010
 Secondary
or less
TradeUniversityOther Post-
Secondary
Other Level of Study
not Stated
Newfoundland
and Labrador 
100301,47090100
Prince Edward Island 801556065100
Nova Scotia 1,0452505,9105601550
New Brunswick 415652,6252501600
Quebec 1,79099525,4303,165850-
Ontario 12,6409,06539,13519,2955,13510
Manitoba 8451954,05053585-
Saskatchewan 765553,23523545-
Alberta 3,6051,8708,5451,9003750
British Columbia 13,8207,70025,93510,8002,220-
Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut2510101000
Total35,14020,240116,89036,9009,045-

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Numbers in this table represent our best estimates of international student enrollment in different levels of study (longer than six months of duration) in each of the provinces and territories and will be the basis for our calculation in Section 6.

Table 9 shows the distribution of international students by level of study in the provinces and territories.  In the Maritime Provinces as well as the provinces of Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, university students account for at least 70% of all international students studying in each of these provinces. In Ontario, Alberta, and BC, however, the shares of university students are lower than the national average.  This is because international students in other levels of programs account for a much higher share of their total. 

It should be noted that data shown for Territories may not correctly represent enrollment in the K-12 system.  We are unaware of any international education program in the three territories.  Therefore, we have not calculated any impact at this level of study.[5]

Table 10 Distribution of International Students in Canada by Level of Study, by Province and Territory, 2010
 Secondary
or less
TradeUniversityOther Post-
Secondary
Other Level of Study
not Stated
Newfoundland
and Labrador 
5.9%1.8%86.5%5.3%0.6%-
Prince Edward Island 11.0%2.1%76.7%8.9%1.4%-
Nova Scotia 13.2%3.2%74.6%7.1%2.0%-
New Brunswick 11.8%1.8%74.7%7.1%4.6%0.0%
Quebec 5.6%3.1%78.9%9.8%2.6%-
Ontario 14.8%10.6%45.9%22.6%6.0%-
Manitoba 14.8%3.4%70.9%9.4%1.5%-
Saskatchewan 17.6%1.3%74.6%5.4%1.0%-
Alberta 22.1%11.5%52.4%11.7%2.3%-
British Columbia 22.9%12.7%42.9%17.9%3.7%-
Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut45.5%18.2%18.2%18.2%0.0%-
Total19.3%10.6%53.5%12.8%3.7%-

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

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[4] For more information see Research and Statistics 

[5] For example, Yukon Government stated that there is no international student program in the public K-12 system. (See link: International Program)

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Date Modified:
2013-12-30