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Canada Higher Education Statistics

Canada International Student Statistics

Canada International Student Statistics

(Updated 2022)

388,782 International Students

Canada is the world's third-leading destination for international students to get a higher education degree. With more than 388,782 international students in higher education by 2021, the Canadian education system has proven to be of the highest quality. The benefits of studying in Canada as an international student also include the affordability of tuition fees and living costs, along with the popularity of Canadian universities across the world.

Quick Summary

There is a difference in international student enrollment between students enrolled in universities and those enrolled in colleges.

  • There are currently 388,782 international students enrolled in higher education in Canada.
  • Of the total 388,782 international students in Canada, 39.4% (153,360) are enrolled in colleges, and 60.5% (235,419) in universities.
  • In the last five years, the number of international students had a significant increase of 69.8%, from 228,924 to 388,782.
  • India is the country with the most international students in Canada, totaling 180,275.
  • Most international students are interested in BHASE subjects (240,711), whereas 134,664 international students are enrolled in STEM subjects.

Historical International Student Statistics in Canada

The total number of international students in all education levels in Canada is 621,565 (study permit holders), including higher education. However, the number of international students enrolled only in tertiary education in Canada is 388,782.

  • Significant growth in the number of international students in Canada occurred in the last decade.
  • The number of international students in Canada increased by 173.4% from 2010/11.
  • From 2010/11 to 2015/16, international students increased by 61%, from 142,170 to 228,924 students.
  • There is a 39.6% difference in international student enrollment between 2015/16 and 2018/19 from 228,924 to 341,964 students.
  • International student enrollment in Canada increased by 13.6% in international student enrollment from 2018/19 to 2019/20.
Year Total International Students
2010/11 142,170
2011/12 158,106
2012/13 174,249
2013/14 199,059
2014/15 217,521
2015/16 228,924
2016/17 256,494
2017/18 296,496
2018/19 341,964
2019/20 388,782

International Students in Canada on a Study Permit

International students who wish to study abroad in Canada must get a study permit. Canada requires all international students enrolled in any educational program — that lasts longer than six months — to obtain a study permit. The study permit holder can also work during the study period without a work permit.

  • There are currently 621,565 international students, across all study levels, who have study permits in Canada.
  • From 2000 until 2021, the number of study permit holders has significantly increased by more than 400%.
  • Starting from 2005 to 2015, the number of study permit holders in Canada increased by 106%, from 170,440 to 352,330.
  • In 2019, Canada issued 638,280 study permits for international students —the highest number in two decades.

Here is a table showing the change in the number of permit holders in Canada over the years:

Year Number of Study Permit Holders
2000 122,665
2001 145,950
2002 158,125
2003 164,480
2004 168,590
2005 170,440
2006 172,340
2007 179,110
2008 184,140
2009 204,005
2010 225,295
2011 248,470
2012 274,700
2013 301,545
2014 330,110
2015 352,330
2016 410,570
2017 490,775
2018 567,065
2019 638,280
2020 528,190
2021 621,565

International Students in Canada by Country of Origin

  • India is the first among the top ten origin countries of study permit holders in Canada, with a total of 180,275 international students.
  • There are 116,935 Chinese international students that hold study permits in Canada.
  • 18,910 international students with a study permit in Canada, come from Vietnam.
  • After Vietnam, France ranks fourth in the top ten origin countries with the most international students in Canada, with 18,295 students.
  • 18,170 study permit holders in Canada are from the Republic of Korea, followed by Iran with 14,045 international students, US (12,740), Brazil (11,050), Nigeria (10,635), and finally Bangladesh with 7,785 study permit holders.

International Students in Canada by Destination Province

  • Ontario is the Canadian province with the highest number of international students (192,906), followed by British Columbia with 70,920 foreign students.
  • Quebec ranks third in the top Canadian provinces with the most international students (59,700).
  • There are 24,636 international students studying abroad in the Canadian province called Alberta.
  • Other Canadian provinces that host international students include Nova Scotia with 12,939 students, Manitoba (10,617), Saskatchewan (6,909), New Brunswick (4,404), Newfoundland and Labrador (3,741), and finally Prince Edward Island with 2,007 international students.

International Students in Canada by University Type

There are two types of universities in Canada: colleges and universities.

Universities in Canada resemble the majority of universities around the world, where they offer different degree level programs, in the academic setting. Whereas colleges offer specific course training, meant for career-oriented students.

  • The majority of international students in Canada are enrolled in Universities, a total of 235,419.
  • In comparison, there are 153,360 international students enrolled in Colleges.
  • From 2015/16, the number of international students in Colleges increased by 154.2%.

On the other hand, the number of international students in Universities increased by 39.6% from 2015/16.

international students in Canada by university type.png
Year College University
2015/16 60,318 168,606
2016/17 76,698 179,796
2017/18 100,140 196,356
2018/19 128,334 213,633
2019/20 153,360 235,419
international students in canada by degree level.png

International Students in Canada by Degree Level

  • The majority of international students in higher education institutions in Canada are enrolled in a bachelor's degree, a total of 160,842 students.
  • There are 45,438 international students enrolled in master’s degree programs in Canada.
  • The degree type with the least international students in Canada is the Ph.D. level, with 20,871 students.

Here’s a breakdown by degree level:

Degree Level Total International Students
Post-secondary non-tertiary education 25,416
Short-cycle tertiary education 110,367
Bachelor's 160,842
Master's 45,438
Doctoral 20,871

International Students in Canada by Subject Area

Between the two subject areas in Canada —STEM, and BHASE— the majority of international students are interested in BHASE subjects.

  • The field of engineering and engineering technology attracts the majority of international students in STEM, a total of 55,608 students.
  • On the other hand, the majority of BHASE students are interested in business and administration, with 112,911 students.
  • The least popular field for international students is in the legal professions and studies, with only 2,106 students.
  • An increase of 216.5% in the number of international students enrollment occurred between 2008/2009 to 2018/19 in the field of business and administration.
  • Another significant growth —by 375%— in international student enrollment occurred in the field of mathematics, computer, and information sciences from 2008/09 to 2018/19.

STEM

The STEM subjects in Canadian higher education institutions are rather popular among international students.

  • The total number of international students in top STEM subjects in Canada is 134,664.
  • Engineering and engineering technology is the STEM subject with the highest number of international students in Canada with 55,608 students.
  • There are currently 44,427 international students enrolled in the mathematics and computer and information sciences in STEM.
  • Science and science technology is ranked third in the top STEM subjects for international students, a total of 34,626.

BHASE

The various fields of study that fall under the BHASE category include business and administration, arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, trades, services, natural resources, and conservation, as the most popular.

  • There are 240,711 international students enrolled in BHASE subjects.
  • BHASE subjects include business and administration, one of the most popular for international students in Canada, with 112,911 students.
  • The number of international students in arts and humanities is 40,872.
  • Social and behavioral sciences are ranked third on the top BHASE subjects, with 38,850 students.
  • 27,468 international students are studying in trades, services, natural resources, and conservation.
  • Health care is another popular BHASE subject for international students, with 14,994 students in total.
  • 3,513 international students are enrolled in the field of education and teaching.
  • There are 2,106 international students enrolled in legal professions and studies.

International Students in Canada by Sex

  • Of the 388,782 international students enrolled in Canada, 203,853 are male, and 182,799 are female students.
  • 87,273 male and 46,623 female international students are enrolled in STEM subjects in Canada.
  • There are more female students (18,189) than male students (16,122) in science and science technology.
  • In comparison, there is a significant difference in enrollment between male and female students in the field of engineering and engineering technology, with 42,087 male and 13,320 female international students.
  • Similarly, there are 29,064 male and 15,114 female students getting a degree in mathematics and computer and information sciences.
  • Contrary to STEM subjects, of the total 240,711 international students enrolled in BHASE subjects, 110,727 are male and 128,808 are female.
  • Business and administration is the only field in BHASE where there are more male students (58,401) than female students (54,081).
  • On the other hand, the female gender dominates in the social and behavioral sciences13,479 male and 25,137 female students—; as well as in arts and humanities with 17,940 male students and 22,635 female students.

International Student Plans After Graduation

  • According to a study conducted by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, the majority (60%) of international students studying abroad in Canada claimed to plans on applying to become permanent residents after graduation.
  • Whereas 30% of the respondents were not sure whether they want to continue living in Canada as permanent residents.

During the same study, 49% of the students said that they intend to work in Canada permanently after graduation, and only 3% claimed that they want to work in their home country.