International Post-Secondary Students Provide an Economic Opportunity for Canada

OTTAWA, Nov. 9, 2016 /CNW/ - International students present a real economic opportunity for Canadian post-secondary institutions and the Canadian economy. But to make the most of this opportunity, Canada must encourage more international students to stay and work in the country, according to a new report by The Conference Board of Canada.

"International students generate billions of dollars of economic activity at Canadian Post-Secondary institutions and in the surrounding communities. They also provide considerable social and cultural value to Canada," said Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Industry and Business Strategy, The Conference Board of Canada. "On the other hand, the great majority of international students do not stay in Canada after their studies and hence do not employ their skills and expertise in our economy."


  • International students generate up to $10 billion annually in economic activity in Canada.
  • International enrolments account for 11 per cent of total post-secondary enrolments in Canada.
  • Canada would benefit economically by making changes to immigration policy that would enable more international students to work in Canada after graduation.

Overall, international students generate up to $10 billion annually with $6.2 billion directly benefitting Canada's post-secondary institutions. The remainder economic impact comes from spending in the surrounding communities. The report estimates that international students spend about $2.8 billion annually, which generates $3.3 billion in economic activity. Assuming that international students generate visits from family and friends to PSE communities, another $200 million in visitor spending annually may be generated. 

International students have also helped Canadian PSEs gain a new source of growth, as they face slowing domestic enrolments due to a decline in the number of Canadians aged 20 to 24. Between 2004 and 2014 the number of international enrolments expanded by 122 per cent, compared to only 24.5 per cent in Canadian enrolments. This means that international students account for an increasing share of total enrolments—about 11 per cent.  

However, the report, Globalization and Canada's PSEs: Opportunities and Challenges, points out that international students are less likely to stay and work in Canada upon graduation than Canadian students. Up to two-thirds of international students in Canadian PSE institutions intend to stay after graduation. Yet the actual stay rates are far lower, perhaps as low as 15 per cent over the long term.  Meanwhile, Canadian university graduates have an employment rate of 75 per cent.  This raises questions about the long-term impact of international students on Canada's socio-economic development.  The long-term impact of international graduates is of particular concern if international students displace Canadian students at PSE as they may be in certain fields of study and levels of education. 

To make the most of the opportunities international students provide, Canada needs to effectively settle and integrate international students and provide them with easier permanent residence pathways. In addition, PSEs and employers need to help international students integrate into the wider economy by, for example, offering language and cultural training.

This report is one of a series looking at the key strategic questions facing Canada's post-secondary education in the years ahead. Globalization of the PSE sector, among many other related topics will be discussed at The Conference Board of Canada's upcoming 4th Skills and Post-Secondary Education Summit 2016 on November 30th and December 1st in Toronto.

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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail:; or, Juline Ranger, Director of Communications, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 431, E-mail:


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