Canada has long been a top global study destination, welcoming over 800,000 international students in 2022 and contributing over $22 billion annually to the economy.
However, rising enrolments have raised concerns over program sustainability, quality assurance, and student wellbeing.
To address these issues, Canada’s federal government announced a temporary two-year cap on new study permits on January 22nd, 2024.This move aims to stabilize growth while improving oversight and support services.
Key Changes Announced
The key changes announced include:
- A cap of approx. 360,000 new study permits issued in 2024 and 2025, 35% below 2023 levels
- Restrictions on permits for students in private “licensing” programs from September 2024
- Shorter post-graduation work permits for some programs from September 2024
- Fewer open work permits for spouses of international students from September 2024.
The measures target growth largely driven by Ontario, which accounts for over 50% of Canada’s international students. Private colleges there have faced particular criticism for expanding too fast while lacking adequate resources.
Why Cap International Students?
Capping permits enables Canada to ensure the quality and integrity of its world-class education system. Specific aims are to:
- Improve oversight of designated learning institutions (DLIs)
- Prevent exploitation of students by “bad actors”
- Align growth with infrastructure capabilities
- Select students that meet economic needs
- Uphold Canada’s global reputation
Controlling numbers also allows for better settlement support, protects domestic access to housing and services, and facilitates pathways to permanent immigration for qualified graduates.
Sustainable Growth Remains Key Goal
While permits will be limited over 2024/2025, Minister Marc Miller stressed that international students remain highly valued. Sustainable growth will continue aligned with Canada’s social, cultural and economic objectives.
Upcoming measures will also improve protections for genuine students and streamline visa processing. The government remains committed to clear permanent residence pathways for talented graduates who can fill key labour gaps.
International Students Vital to Canada
Canada has long leveraged international study as a gateway to skilled migration. Retention rates after 5 and 10 years now exceed OECD averages, while overqualification is half the rate of other migrants.
Graduates offer recognized credentials, Canadian work experience, language skills, integration with communities and culture, and young demographics. These attributes align perfectly with economic immigration criteria.
Previous changes have already prioritized processing for DLIs with strong post-graduation outcomes. This will now be formalized within a national framework to share best practices.
Economic & Social Impacts
International education represents Canada’s 6th largest export, contributing $22.3 billion in 2022. The sector supports over 200,000 jobs, with wide economic impacts given tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending.
Students also enrich campus diversity, drive research and innovation, and develop global connections. Retained graduates further enhance labour force productivity over the long term.
While costs have risen, international tuition still subsidizes domestic places at most public institutions. This increases access and quality for Canadian students.
Canada remains committed to welcoming diverse global talent through international education. But measured growth is vital to uphold the value of this important pathway. The newly announced cap will achieve this by elevating oversight, integrity and outcomes – ultimately benefiting Canada, international students and their home countries alike.