The era of China fueling the international student boom in Canada is officially over.
Recent statistics show fewer new study permits were issued to Chinese students in 2019 than in 2018, and the total number of Chinese students in Canada also dropped.
The decline is a milestone in a trend that many identified several years ago.
Cindy McIntyre is director of international relations for Universities Canada, an association that advocates on behalf of 95 universities.
“Given anticipated demographic shifts in China, we are not surprised to see that the growth in Chinese students coming to Canada is beginning to slow,” she wrote in reply to email questions from Polestar. “With further development of China’s own higher education system, we are expecting to see less demand for study abroad from Chinese students in the future.”
Chinese students still make up the second-largest group of international students in the country (after India), but the total numbers are now shrinking, not growing.
At the end of December 2019, there were 141,400 Chinese citizens with a valid permit to study in Canada – down about 500 students from the year before. They made up 22 per cent of the 642,480 international students in this country. Five years ago, Chinese students made up 33 per cent of Canada’s 352,365 international students.
Chinese interest in Canadian education helped drive an enormous increase in the sector in the last decade. The number of international students in Canada more than doubled in the last six years, with more than half of those students coming from China and India.
The reliance on those two countries has sparked concern among officials that universities, colleges and schools could be vulnerable if Chinese or Indian interest in Canadian schools, colleges and universities suddenly wanes.
Global Affairs Canada estimates that international students contributed $21.6 billion to the Canadian economy in 2018 and were responsible for the creation of 170,000 Canadian jobs. It launched a new strategy last fall designed to attract students from a wider range of countries.
The statistics only cover international students who obtained a study permit. Students who study in Canada for less than six months, including most language school students, are not required to obtain a permit.