The number of international students in Canada has increased by 94 percent since 2001, climbing to a total of 265,377 in 2012, according to a new report released this week by the Canadian Bureau for International Education. (For comparison, this is slightly less than a third of the number of international students in the U.S.) The top four countries of origin – China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia – mirror those of the U.S.
In a survey of 1,509 international students in Canada, CBIE found that 91 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with their decision to study in Canada. Nearly half (46 percent) plan to become permanent residents in Canada; another 25 percent hope to stay in Canada and work for up to three years before returning home. More than two-thirds of students described opportunities to work full-time in Canada post-graduation and to obtain permanent residency as either “very important” or “essential” factors in their decision to study in Canada.
In regards to social and cultural integration – an issue of increasing concern as the number of international students rises – 78 percent of students said they’d like more opportunities to experience Canadian culture and family life. However, nearly a third of students (31 percent) said they prefer to mix with people of their own culture. Slightly more than half of students (55 percent) said their friends primarily consist of other international students, including 23 percent who said they were primarily friends with their compatriots; seven percent said they are primarily friends with Canadian students.
The survey also probes experiences of discrimination. While 82 percent agreed with the statement that Canada is a welcoming and tolerant society, minorities of students reported experiencing racial or cultural/religious discrimination in their interactions with faculty members, institutional staff, students and the broader community.
The CBIE report also considers the issue of study abroad, and finds that Canada’s participation rate of less than 3 percent is significantly lower than that of other countries.