Between 2010 and 2019, the number of foreign students enrolled in public post-secondary schools in Canada increased dramatically from 142,200 to 388,800. Currently, when accounting for foreign students at all academic levels, this number exceeds 800,000. This growth prompts an investigation into the effect of foreign students on domestic enrollment in Canada. The influx of overseas students has significantly impacted the dynamics of local enrollment, shaping the country’s educational environment. Explore the Impact of international students on domestic enrollment in Canada here.
The significant growth in the number of international students raises concerns about its influence on domestic student enrollment in Canada. The surge of international students raises concerns about potential detrimental effects on Canadian students as well as potential ramifications on future international student enrollment. On the other hand, a study by academics Youjin Choi and Feng Hou at Statistics Canada offers a another viewpoint. The study indicates a favorable association between the two cohorts at Canadian universities through a comparative analysis of post-secondary enrolment trends between domestic and international students, uncovering notable findings in the process.
The study looked at the number of foreign and domestic students enrolled in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and BHASE (business, humanities, arts, social sciences, and education) programs at public post-secondary institutions in Canada. Legal studies, trades, services, natural resources, and conservation-related initiatives were all included in the BHASE category. Taking into account a number of variables referred to as “institution characteristics and time effects,” such as modifications to program offerings, admissions requirements, enrollment capacity, and other pertinent variables, the study sought to assess the effect of international student enrollment on domestic students.
Impact of international students on domestic enrollment in Canada – Results
The study’s overall finding showed that the enrollment of international students at the post-secondary level did not negatively impact domestic student enrollment in all fields of study at the institutional level.
But the study made a more complex finding when examining BHASE and STEM programs. The study found a positive association in both cases between the number of international and domestic students enrolled in STEM and BHASE courses: an increase in international student enrollment was accompanied by an increase in the number of local students enrolled in these courses.
An increase in international student enrollment in BHASE programs was linked to a more general increase in domestic enrollment at the institution.
This linkage was especially strong for BHASE programs in post-secondary non-tertiary and short-cycle tertiary programs.
The analysis concluded that there was no relationship between the number of domestic and foreign students enrolled in STEM graduate programs. Nonetheless, researchers discovered a statistically significant positive association regarding the enrollment of domestic and international students in BHASE graduate programs.
These results provide insightful information, especially when considered in light of the larger trend that has seen a modest decline in the number of native Canadian students enrolled in post-secondary education. On the other hand, enrollments of foreign students at the same level of study have almost tripled over the same 10 years. Notably, the survey found that the number of international students enrolled has increased for all educational levels and programs that it analyzed.
What could be the reason for this?
The study presents the hypothesis of cross-subsidization to explain the positive link between domestic and overseas student enrollment in STEM and BHASE disciplines, even though it doesn’t provide particular explanations for the results. According to this argument, Canadian universities may use the higher tuition amounts paid by overseas students as a means of covering the expense of instructing domestic students. Even though the study didn’t identify any concrete evidence of cross-subsidization, the findings support this theory after controlling for other factors.
Historical evidence lends more credence to cross-subsidization. While domestic student prices climbed by only 27% (from $5,146 to $6,580 CAD) between 2010 and 2019, the average tuition fees for international undergraduate students increased by 90.2% (from $16,842 to $32,039 CAD). These tuition increases greatly outpaced the 13% increase in costs of goods and services due to inflation, as determined by the Consumer Price Index, during the same period.
If the patterns found in this study continue, it doesn’t seem likely that the enrolment of local students will have a major influence on that of international students, or vice versa, based on the data that is now available. It is imperative to recognize the limits of this research, though.
The research has limits, particularly when considering Canada’s demographics, even though it makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the subject.
The findings might mainly apply to the particular period of time that the study examined and could be impacted by changes in the population that took place in the 2010s. Notably, according to Statistics Canada, the population of young adults (18 to 24) decreased from 462,009 in 2008 to 410,851 in 2021. The primary reason for this dip was a drop in births in the 1990s and the first part of the 2000s (Statistics Canada, 2022f). As a result, there was a decline in domestic demand for postsecondary education, which gave international students the chance to occupy these teaching positions.
A decrease in government funding for departmental budgets may also play a role in the decline in domestic student enrollment, as provincial funds subsidize domestic student enrollments. Postsecondary educational institutions may have needed to increase their enrollment of foreign students in light of these demographic developments, a move they could have made without lowering their enrollment of domestic students.
In the next ten years, demographic trends are expected to reverse as the number of young adults (18 to 24 years old) started rising in 2021 and is anticipated to expand rapidly until 2026, surpassing the 2008 peak. If the trend of Canadian young adults enrolling in postsecondary education continues, this demographic transition may lead to an increase in domestic demand for postsecondary education in the upcoming ten years. As a result, in the upcoming ten years, there may be a change in the fundamental link between variations in the enrolment of domestic and foreign students.
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