How many international students are in Canada?

Canada is one of the most attractive destinations in the world for international students. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), there was an estimate of 530,540 international students in Canada in 2020, with 96% of foreign students recommending Canada as an international destination.

Recently, the Government of Canada published an International Education Strategy for the period of 2019-2024 which involves a responsibility to expand incoming students, spreading students more evenly throughout the country. A lot of Canadian universities are implementing English as a second language program. Also, they are adding particular scholarships specifically for international students to help them with the tuition costs.

Since 2015, the level of international students has been gradually increasing in all education levels as shown in Figure 1 (Statista 2020) with the majority being at the post-secondary institutional level.

Figure 1. Number of study permit holders in Canada 2000-2020 (Statista 2020).

Where do international students come from?

Canada is the second biggest country in the world; that makes it a place with diverse provinces and cities to choose from. The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) has been conducting international student surveys since 2012 in order to collect important data on the international student experience in post-secondary institutions. Therefore, the International Student Survey presents key trends regarding the level of study, province or territory of study, and citizenship of international students in Canada.

There are international students from different countries all over Canada but to have a more detailed idea of where are they coming from please refer to Figure 2 (CBIE 2020).

Figure 2. Where do inbound students come from? (CBIE 2020)


What are the main reasons why international students choose Canada?

  • Quality of education 

Canada is a world-recognized country for quality of education, from the lower level of studies to the highest. Therefore, degrees of any kind are accredited internationally. This makes it a more accessible and transferable place for students to come and go to different countries.

  • Quality of life 

Canada is a top country in living standards, it is ranked the #1 most livable country in the world. The ranking was based on different criteria such as affordability, diversity, and opinion from graduates about the job market. Canada has a cost of living lower than other countries, and also offers stability, safety and a respectful multicultural environment.

  • Canadian society

Canada is a very welcoming country for foreign students. It has a culture that embraces diversity and accepts people from different backgrounds, religions, beliefs, traditions, etc. And that shows it as a non-discriminatory country and a tolerant society.

  • Rewarding careers

The rate for students to get a great job and earning potential after graduation is very high. This is due to the rewarding careers that Canada offers. Besides due to the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) program that the Canadian government offers, students can work for a particular amount of time after they finish their studies, which gives them financial compensation and professional experience in the job world.

Also, for more information regarding the reasons or benefits why international students come to Canada, please go to the article ‘Benefits of studying in Canada: Opportunities for International Students‘.




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