Canada’s International Student Boom Is Ending As Indian Applications Plummet

Canada may have just killed one of its last golden geese. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data shows new study permits made a sharp drop in August 2023. The decline can be attributed almost entirely to falling applications from India, a market that represented nearly half of all permits in 2022. The loss of applications is so substantial, it may spell the end of Canada’s student permit boom. It’s also worth mentioning this decline occurred before political tensions between the two countries began to rise. 

Canada’s International Student Boom May Have Peaked

Canada’s student boom might be coming to an end. Study permit applications fell 5% to 80,897 filings in August. Compared to last year, this represented a 9% decline. Typically July to August shows growth ahead of the busy September school start. Not the case this time.  

Indian Students Represented Nearly Half of Canada’s Applications, But They’re No Longer Interested

The decline appears to be almost entirely concentrated in Canada’s largest source of students—India. Study permit requests from India dropped 12% to 21,161 applications in August. It was the third consecutive month for applications from the country. Considering how important these students have been to the study permit growth, this can mean a peak for the trend. 

Indian Students Are Less Interested In Attending Canadian Schools 

Indian students as a share of Canadian study permit applications, in percentage points.

Source: IRCC; Better Dwelling.

After Canada got in a beef with China, the country turned to Indian students to make up the gap. In 2021, Indians represented over 2 in 5 study permit applications (43%). That jumped to nearly half (49%) in 2022, and this year was heading for similar growth. From January to May 2023, Indian students represented 42% of applications. In June, the picture suddenly changed as fewer applications came in. 

Canadian Study Permit Growth Is Slowing As Indians Look Elsewhere

Annual percentage growth of study permits for all applicants (total) and those sourced from India.

Source: IRCC; Better Dwelling.

Canada May Have Seen Peak Study Permit Growth

The sudden reduction of Indian study permit applications is dragging overall growth. In August, the decline of Indian students helped push monthly growth for total applications into negative territory. The country was on schedule to see another year of international student growth, but the current decline means the peak will be reached within a few months. Something most Canadians would never think possible without the government limiting those numbers. 

Canada Is Developing A Reputation For Exploiting Indian Students 

The first thought that pops into mind is that the decline must be related to rising Canada-India political tensions. However, that drama began after the September G-20 meeting. This trend starts in May or June, way before the political issue was even in the works. 

What had occurred back then was the public discussion of Indian students being exploited in Canada. Stories of no housing and using food banks became more common. An admissions scandal that impacted hundreds of students made those accusations suddenly very concrete. 

The timeline is right around when Canada was considering deporting hundreds of Indian students that were the victims of fraud. The students had been told they were admitted to a well known post-secondary school, entered Canada on student visas, then were told by the recruiter that the university no longer had space, so they would have to attend private colleges. 

After completing their studies, border services accused the students of committing fraud and sent out 700 deportation notices. While the government stepped in to freeze the order, a number had already left—some voluntarily, others by force.  

Considering Indian media covered the issue extensively, Canada likely developed a reputation overseas. At least when it comes to smaller, lesser known schools. 

As political tensions rise between the two countries post-G-20, it would be surprising to not see further declines from India. If this occurs, it almost certainly will mean Canada’s international student boom is over. 



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  • Scott MacKinnon 7 months ago

    I guess our GDP will decline accordingly…

  • walter Schwager 7 months ago

    The unrestricted growth of Indian students, often with very limited financial means, has not been good for these students or the Canadian institutions. The Federal government is finally looking at dubious colleges that only serve to obtain permanent resident cards for their “graduates.”

  • Jerry 7 months ago

    With technology the way it is today, exploitation is becoming increasingly more difficult to conceal. Unfortunately, that leaves Canada in a rather large predicament of its own making.

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