The Canadian Bureau for International Education last week released the results of its latest student questionnaire, which asked participants about their experience in Canada, including pre-arrival, study and post-graduate plans.
Over 40% of students plan to work in the country and then pursue permanent residency immediately after graduation, while in a separate question about long-term intent to stay in Canada, 59% said they would apply for permanent residency at some point.
An additional 18% hope to return home after working for up to three years in the country, while a significant number also said they would continue their studies in Canada.
However the report noted that the desire to stay in Canada was “not universal” and urged policymakers and employers “who frequently identify international students as a vital, willing and potentially inexhaustible pool of skilled labour” to examine this further.
Earlier this year, the Canadian government announced that it would extend post-graduate work permits for recent international graduates in a bid to tackle the country’s labour shortage.
For the most part, these students planned to stay in the province that they studied in, with 33% saying they “enjoy the lifestyle” of their respective regions.
“This emphasises the importance of addressing some of the perceived barriers to accessing work opportunities”
Participants were also asked about their experience of working while studying.
Although half of respondents reported that they were working or had worked during their studies, over 40% said that it had been challenging to find a job, mainly due to a lack of work experience.
Some students also felt that they did not understand Canadian employer expectations and that employers were unfamiliar with regulations around hiring international students.
A spokesperson from CBIE commented that international students who do work during their studies have a “distinct advantage” in the Canadian labour market.
“Having this type of experience increases language proficiency, builds familiarity with the culture and allows for more straightforward credential recognition,” the spokesperson said.
Shamira Madhany, Canada managing director at World Education Services, said it was “encouraging” that so many international students want to stay in Canada but that “it is critical that they have the necessary supports to be successful as they transition from post-secondary to the labour force and succeed long term”.
The survey, which was answered by participants from 67 institutions, also looked at how students chose their university or education provider and found that information from recruitment agents was not a popular resource.
Instead, students said that institutional websites, personal recommendations and institution ranking websites were the most helpful when deciding where to study, in what CBIE called a “sophisticated and multi-layer approach to inform their decision-making”.
Responding to the findings, a spokesperson from student recruitment company ApplyBoard said that it had seen students “leveraging a range of information and sources available to them… with recruitment partners being part of that group.”
“Deciding on where to go is an important step, but it is one of many steps a student takes along their journey and recruitment partners are an integral part of that journey for many students,” ApplyBoard said.
In terms of safety and wellbeing, the survey found that students from Asia were significantly more likely to have experienced discrimination and harassment, with one in three Asian respondents stating that the Covid-19 pandemic had worsened this.
Despite this, 79% of students said they were drawn to Canada because of its reputation as “a safe and stable country”.
The quality of the country’s education system and its reputation as “tolerant and non-discriminatory” society were also important pull factors.
The majority of students who responded to the survey were enrolled in full-time, English-taught courses, and 67% of participants were from Canada’s top 10 source countries.