Fewer Indian students applying to learn in Canada, report says

Cost of living, housing crisis and difficult job market main factors in drop

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Canada’s cost of living and housing crisis, along with a difficult job market, were main factors in the drop in study permit applications from India, a recent report says.

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According to Apply Board, a Waterloo-based tech company that helps international students apply for post-secondary studies abroad, applications from Indian students are down 40%.

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From July to October 2022, the Canadian government processed almost 146,000 new study permit applications from India, but last year only processed less than 87,000 applications during the same time frame.

However, the opposite is true from January to June of both years, where 25% more study permit applications were processed last year as compared to 2022.

So what happened?

According to Better Dwelling, a Vancouver-based housing news outlet, students from India were sharing to social media the hardships they faced while attending school in Canada.

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While a social media analysis would have been difficult to perform, Apply Board examined top Indian media and found that there were five times more stories about housing in Canada in 2023, compared to the previous year.

“Additionally, the percentage of content flagged as negative rose from 12 to 30%, with Indian students’ financial hardships and unemployment challenges a consistent theme,” Apply Board wrote, which they say supported Better Dwelling’s claim.

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Since 2016, the study permit approval rate for Indian students was between 60% and 68%, except during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 — which saw only two-in-five applications approved — and 2022, when just over half (55%) got the green light.

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Last year, approved applications were up at just under 70%, meaning “32,000 more Indian students were approved to study in Canada from January to September” last year than in 2022 “despite the drop in applications processed.”

Apply Board is projecting at least 200,000 students from India will be approved to study in 2023, which would be a 5% to 8% increase over 2022.

So, in effect, there were fewer applications and more approvals.

But if fewer Indian students are applying to Canadian post-secondary institutions, does that mean other countries are seeing a positive bump?

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According to Apply Board, other major English-language destinations like the United Kingdom, United States and Australia have not seen a significant rise in visas issued to account for Canada’s decline.

“While it’s certainly possible Indian students are finding their way to destinations beyond the big four, we suspect many who have been rethinking their plans to go to Canada may simply be choosing to stay home,” Apply Board wrote.

However, students from other countries are filling the gap in Canada.

From July to October, study permits processed for other countries rose by 34% and are up 52% from last year, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada data.

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