Covid-19: Canadian universities likely to lose billions of dollars in revenue due to travel curbs

With Canada’s data agency warning that the country’s universities could lose billions of dollars in revenue after pandemic-related travel curbs led to a fall in the enrollment of international students, those from India securing study permits this year have shown a sharp drop of over 50% compared to 2019.

Indian students in Canada comprised the largest bloc of international scholars in the country – with 219,855, a record number – as of 2019 end, according to official data.

The number of Indian students who were issued valid study permits grew in the first quarter of 2020, going up from 13,965 to 16,105. After that, the Covid-19 outbreak began, and the number plummeted from 27,395 in the second quarter of 2019 to 16,250 in 2020.

The precipitous drop was even more in evident in the third quarter when the real rush begins as the new academic year commences in September.

In 2019, 58,565 Indians students held the permits, while between July and August this year, the total number was only 15,700. Overall, the first eight months of 2019 had logged 99,925 for Indian students, while this year, the comparative figure is at 47,220 – a decline of over 50%.

The surge of Indian students going to Canadian institutions of higher education began in 2017, as they overtook the Chinese for the first time to become the largest segment, with 82,955 permits. That increased to 107,085 in 2018 and further to 138,930 last year, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

This trend has led the country’s data agency, Statistics Canada or StatCan, to forecast a drop in earnings for universities this year. It said in a report, “It is estimated that international students paid almost 40% of all tuition fees and accounted for almost $4 billion in annual revenue for Canadian universities in 2017-2018.”

Such students, including those from India, paid tuition fees that were almost five times the average for domestic students, which was $6,610.

“The number of student permits issued from June to August in 2020 fell by over half (-58%) compared with 2019,” StatCan noted in a statement. It estimated that “depending on the size of the reduction in international student enrollments and the subsequent loss in tuition fees (unadjusted for inflation)”, Canadian universities could possibly “lose between $377 million (0.8% of projected revenues) and $3.4 billion (7.5% of projected revenues) in 2020-2021”.

Indian students are estimated to have added between $6 billion and $10 billion to the Canadian economy in 2019.

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