Australia, Canada & UK Tighten Rules on International Students Amid Post-COVID Surge

United Kingdom Australia Canada Europe International Studies Higher Education News by Erudera News Jan 30, 2024

uk visas and immigration

Due to the surging numbers of international students after the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom have introduced tighter restrictions, mainly to cut net overseas migration.

However, the three countries have adopted different strategies for tightening student policies, reports.


The Australian government started introducing stricter rules in the second half of 2023. In an effort to reduce the number of international students, Australia increased the rejection of student visa applications based on requirements.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in the year ending June, Australia experienced its largest net overseas migration since records began. During that period, Australia had 518,000 more people due to overseas migration.

The number of migrant arrivals increased to 737,000 in the 2022/23 academic year, up from 427,000 in the previous year. Differently, in 2020/21, the number of migrants decreased by 71 percent due to travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Temporary visa holders were the largest contributors to arrivals in 2022-23. Of the temporary visa holders, the largest group was international students (283,000). Other temporary visa holders include working holiday makers (70,000) and temporary skilled (49,000),” ABS said.

Government data show the number of international students in Australia was 768,113 for the January-October 2023. That was a 29 percent increase compared to the same period in 2022 when the number of international students totaled 594,027.

China was the largest source of international students in the country in 2023, sending a total of 162,826, followed by India with 124,820 and Nepal with 61,320 students.

Other countries with students in Australia over the past year include:

  • Colombia - 38,033 students
  • Philippines - 34,655 students
  • Vietnam - 31,634 students
  • Thailand - 25,462 students
  • Brazil - 23,914 students
  • Pakistan - 23,092 students
  • Indonesia - 20,983 students


Canada has most recently set a two-year cap on international student permit applications. The government has decided to reduce the approved study permits to nearly 360,000 for 2024, a decrease of 35 percent from 2023.

In the spirit of fairness, individual provincial and territorial caps have been established, weighted by population, which will result in much more significant decreases in provinces where the international student population has seen the most unsustainable growth,” the Canadian Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller said on January 22, 2024, after introducing the new measures.

According to a statement by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), to implement the cap, as of January 22, 2024, every study permit application must also have an attestation letter issued from a province or territory.

The same notes that provinces and territories are expected to issue attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.

These temporary measures will be in place for two years, and the number of new study permit applications that will be accepted in 2025 will be re-assessed at the end of this year,” IRCC said.

Some students have not welcomed the new rules, saying that it is a sensible move.

“People in the other country may feel very sad because Canada has (become) more strict. But they don’t know the struggle we face after coming here,” Haritha Kaladharan, an international student from India, told CTV News.

According to IRCC data, the number of international students in Canada reached 1,028,850 in 2023, a 27 percent increase from 2022. That is an 8 percent increase compared to the government projections of 950,000 students for 2023, following a 30 percent rise in 2022.

Most international students move to Ontario, which hosted 51 percent of the total student population last year, up from 49 percent in 2021.

British Columbia was the second most populated province, with 19.5 percent of students in 2023, followed by Quebec with 11.5 percent.

A few days after the new cap on international study permits, Ontario urged universities and colleges to guarantee accommodation for all international students. Ontario’s Minister of Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop, said that the government will review the study programs of post-secondary institutions that admit more international students.

The list below shows international enrollment by province:

  • Ontario - 526,015
  • British Columbia - 202,565
  • Quebec - 117,925
  • Alberta - 63,425
  • Manitoba - 28,190
  • Nova Scotia - 26,610
  • Saskatchewan - 18,695
  • New Brunswick - 16,030
  • Newfoundland and Labrador - 7,430
United Kingdom

The increase in net migration also forced the United Kingdom to reduce the number of international students there. The new rules came into effect on January 1, 2024.

In May of 2023, former British Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that international students would not be allowed to bring family members into the country unless they pursue postgraduate research courses.

Before June 2019, international student dependents accounted for 6 percent of non-EU student immigration. This increased to 25 percent in June last year.

The number of UK study visa grants stood at nearly 490,000 in 2022. That was an 81 percent increase from pre-pandemic levels, specifically in 2019.

Most visa grants were issued to Indian students in 2022, a total of 139,539, up 307 percent from 34,261 in 2019.

The Home Office explained that the number of sponsored study visas increased by 29 percent between 2021 and 2022, while between 2019 and 2020, visa grants dropped mostly due to travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Centre for Migration Control (CMC) findings, the UK hosted a record 787,000 international students during the academic year of 2022/2023.


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