Canada was dream destination for Indian students. Something has changed.

Visa applicants wait outside for a walk-in appointment outside a BLS International visa application center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.  (Cole Burston/Bloomberg)
Visa applicants wait outside for a walk-in appointment outside a BLS International visa application center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (Cole Burston/Bloomberg)


  • One of the main reasons for this drop has been Canada’s decision to cap the number of international students this year and stricter work visa rules

Mumbai: Canada is becoming less attractive as an education destination for Indians. The number of Indian students applying to coveted Canadian universities has dropped sharply by 40-45% this year. This follows the country’s 35% cut in international student numbers allowed to join its universities in 2024, making students queasy about applying there.

Other factors are at play, too. Since last year, Canada has faced a housing demand-supply crisis where sufficient housing options were not available for the large number of incoming students. Plus, jobs available for students and young professionals over the past one year have also been a challenge.

Consultants have said that the cloud over higher education will remain, and the dip will continue until the Canadian elections, which are due by October 2025.

For instance, University of Toronto, one of the country’s largest universities, has seen a 40% drop in number of applications from India this year. Calling the drop a significant one, Joseph Wong, vice-president, international at the university said, “The lack of clarity and the uncertainty had a dampening effect and that's reflected in the decline in the number of applications we received from Indian students this year."

The university had 2,520 students from India in 2023-2024. It is now doubling its efforts in communicating to Indian students, holding events in Mumbai and Delhi to meet with prospective families and address their uncertainties. Students joining the university for the 2024-2025 academic year will begin their studies in September 2024.

The cap on international students and stricter work visa rules has forced thousands of students to opt for other countries at the application stage itself. And even though the cap on student numbers does not apply to post-graduate or doctoral courses, even these students are staying away because of the uncertainty.

Take 25-year-old civil engineer Siddharth Roshan, who was initially planning to head to Canada for his MBA degree but changed his plans in January after the visa rules came in. “My relatives in Canada advised me not to come because of the high GIC (guaranteed investment certificate) and housing crisis, and uncertainty over visa. I will head for The University of Texas, Dallas this September," said Roshan. His course tuition fee per year is about 22 lakh, most of which will be financed through a loan.

Canada had upped the GIC from CAD $10,000 ( 6 lakh) to CAD $20,635 ( 12 lakh) effective from 2024. A GIC is similar to a secure investment and acts as a proof that the student has the means to live and pay for expenses in Canada. One can get GIC from Canadian financial institutions.

“To maintain a sustainable level of temporary residence in Canada as well as to ensure that there is no further growth in the number of international students in Canada for 2024, we are setting a national application intake cap for a period of two years for 2024," immigration minister Marc Miller said in January this year. “The cap is expected to result in approximately 364,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35% from 2023," he had then added.

While colleges and consultants had estimated a dip, the real numbers are playing out now as students start applying for their visa process for the fall session, which sees maximum enrolments.

“In 2023, 3,000 of our students had gone to Canada; this year we expect 2,200 at most," said Vaibhav Gupta, chief marketing officer, iSchoolConnect Pvt Ltd, an overseas education consultant. “The fall session is seeing an uptick in deferral rates for Canada from our clients."

Deferrals option is where a student postpones the joining even after getting accepted due to uncertainties, financial constraints, etc. Gupta said that the option is available for a year and their deferral rates for the fall batch has increased from 3.2% in 2023 to 5.8% in 2024.

“Our application numbers have fallen by 44% for this year for Canada; we send a couple of thousand every year," said Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and chief executive officer of Leverage Edu, which ties up with banks and NBFCs to help students headed abroad with loans. “We started offering Canada as an option to students in 2018 and there was steady growth, but now it has dropped and until the Canadian elections get over, the uncertainty will remain."

The US, Canada, Australia and some European countries like Germany are preferred destinations for students to study engineering, medicine, science, etc. Both Australia and Canada over the past year and a half have brought in restrictions in their student intake through stringent background checks, higher-valued GICs, etc.

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