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Economic Impact of International Education in Canada - An Update

9. Conclusions and Recommendations

In this report, Roslyn Kunin and Associates, Inc. (RKA) has used mainly secondary sources to collect information for estimating the quantitative impact of international students in various levels of study on the Canadian economy. The RKA team has worked extensively with international education stakeholders and organizations to collect data on different types of expenditure items and their dollar amounts, and calculated total expenditure by level of study and by province/territory.

We have discussed the differences of a number of data sets which could be used to approximate the number of international students studying in provinces and territories in Canada.  In the end, we have adopted the time series of the number of study permit holders in the country, derived from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as the proxy for the number of international students in the country by level of study.  As the CIC data does not provide any information on short term students who do not require a study permit to pursue career, language, or vocational training while they stay in Canada, we have further utilized data from Languages Canada, an established data set which helps to fill some of the data gap.

The economic benefit of international students studying in Canada is substantial. Total expenditure of long-term international students in Canada amounted to about $6.9 billion in 2010. This translates to $4.2 billion in GDP contribution to the Canadian economy, and represents almost 7% of the GDP contributed by the overall education services sector in the Canadian economy.

International education services serving these long-term students contributed to over 70,000 jobs in the labour market. This represents about 5.7% of the total number of jobs in the overall education services sector in Canada.

International education services serving long term students also generated almost $400 million in government revenue, mainly by way of paying consumption taxes.  Out of this amount, we estimate that $157.7 million was tax contribution to federal government, and $239 million contributed to provincial and territorial government tax revenue.

International students in short-term language training programs in Canada also contributed an additional $788 million per year in total spending to the Canadian economy. This is equivalent to about $455 million in GDP, 10,780 jobs, and $48 million in government revenue.

In addition to capturing economic impact resulted from spending on tuition and fees and basic living expenses, we estimate that $336 million per year can be attributed to additional tourism related activities, including international students and their family and friends.

Canada’s international education services for long-term students alone contribute to the equivalent of 1.7% of Canada’s total export in goods to the world. However, for top international student source countries such as China, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia, Canada’s international education services to these countries contribute to more than 10% of Canada’s export in goods to these countries.

It should be noted that this report has utilized a combination of literature, web-sites, and other public information to collect data and these are at best our educated estimates of the magnitude of international education services in Canada. However, these estimates are subject to revision should more accurate data become available in the future.

Given the substantial amount of economic benefits brought by international students to the country, we believe that there is a need to develop more consistently defined and more timely available data sets which will allow for tracking international educational services performance over time.

Specifically, we recommend that,

  • Ensure that international students are recognized and supported commensurate to their importance to Canada relative to other similar sized exports of goods and services.
  • Consider the possibility of establishing a survey method like that undertaken in Australia where a sample of visitors leaving the country would be surveyed regarding their activities in Canada. This would need to be done at all major international airports and would need to be carried out in a number of languages.
  • Work with stakeholders (including CIC, Statistics Canada, and universities, colleges, and other training institutions) to develop a consistent system of record-keeping to track international student expenditures while in Canada.
  • Work with Statistics Canada to develop a national survey of public and private educational institutions to determine international student enrolment, tuition rates, and other expenses for degree/diploma granting programs as well as adult and continuing education classes of under six months.
  • Coordinate with provincial governments and national organizations to determine consistent survey questions for international students.

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Date Modified:
2013-12-31