Academia’s efforts to recruit international students at the start of the pandemic have paid off: enrollment has rebounded, according to data obtained Press with a dozen institutions. But behind this success, students have been waiting for a long time in uncertainty to get their study permit. Some people are thinking of postponing their registration.
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As a result of the pandemic, the number of foreign students enrolled in many of the surveyed universities has decreased slightly. Press.
But, surprise: from 2021, registrations are increasing again.
So much so that many institutions now have more number of foreign students than in 2019.
“The drop observed at the beginning of the epidemic has immediately rebounded,” confirmed Neko Likongo, director of the Department of International and Diplomatic Relations at UQAM.
As of fall 2020, the international student population at UQAM has dropped to 3,325 people – nearly 900 students less than the previous year.
But the university quickly rebounded: at the start of the 2021 academic year, it recruited 4,387 students from abroad, representing a 32% increase compared to 2020. “And we have good reason to believe that growth will continue. The future,” Mr Likongo said.
Ditto for the rest of Canada: in 2021, more than 550,000 study permit applications were processed by Ottawa, up 152% from 2020 and 30% from 2019 – unheard of. And at the current rate, the year 2022 should break this record.
The number of foreign students at École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) increased by 39% between the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 academic years. By the next academic year, the university hopes to have foreign students represent 30% of the total student body.
Our growth in 2021-2022 is also a catch-up for students who have deferred their study project [en raison de la pandémie].
Tanguy Bantas, Director of the Department of International Relations at ÉTS
For its part, Bishop’s University is slowly catching up with the decline in international students observed over the past two years.
“There is an increase in admissions [à la rentrée 2022]. Does this translate into actual registration? Are there any students who need to defer again? said Lysange Gervais, coordinator at the Bishop’s International Office.
Behind this success lies another reality: students can wait months to get their study permit.
Some of them are even considering postponing their registration to the next term, UQAM spokesperson Jenny Desrochers reported.
“However, we don’t have an order of magnitude because most people wait until the last minute to postpone”, she noted.
At the University of Montreal, we observed that the increase in applications for admission from French-speaking African countries “does not materialize in subsequent registrations”.
“You might think that some students who don’t study do so because their study permit was refused,” says UdeM spokeswoman Genevieve O’Meara.
It should be noted that the institution does not automatically know the reasons why an admitted student does not proceed with their registration and therefore cannot provide accurate statistics on this matter.
“However, our current statistics show that more students from Africa cancel enrollment than from other countries such as India, China or Brazil. And this trend has accelerated in recent years,” adds Ms.me O’Meara.
According to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website, the processing time for study permit applications from abroad is estimated at 12 weeks.
The ministry said on its site that “increasing demand” would “increase pressure on treatment”.
Recently, UQAM said it has noticed little delay in the issuance of these permits and hopes the situation will improve by next academic year, especially for African students.
Redouble your efforts
To accommodate more foreign students amid the pandemic, universities have gone into overdrive.
For example: Many institutions have provided distance education to thousands of students who are stranded outside the country due to border restrictions.
For the first time, Université Laval organized virtual open houses, which it hopes to repeat in the coming years.
Where I had 25 international students who could be physically present, we had thousands of virtual visitors from all over the planet.
Normand Beaudry, Director of International Recruitment at Université Laval
The University of Quebec at Rimouski instead relied on propaganda campaigns in France and Africa. The strategy seems to be paying off: its campuses had nearly 600 foreign students last fall, more than in 2019.
A multi-million dollar bill
For universities, this strong return of foreign students is also paying off. They pay huge tuition fees – 3 to 10 times more than Quebecers1.
For reference, a foreign student pays $25,462 per year for a baccalaureate at ÉTS, while Quebecer costs $3,533. (This excludes French and Belgian students who benefit from special agreements with Quebec.)
More than universities, it’s all Quebec that’s emerging as a winner from the foreign student boom, points out Pierre Baptiste, acting director of academic affairs and student experience at the polytechnic.
“With the demographics we have in Quebec, we need these international students. We don’t have the means to supply the number of highly qualified people we need,” he said.
In collaboration with William Leclerc, Press