Waterloo sees a rising number of international students attending post-secondary

Photo by Luke Sarazin

Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo will witness an influx of international students moving into the area come the beginning of fall.

As reported by 570 News, both post-secondary institutions are now reporting double digit growth in international student applications. On June 1, the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) reported that the number of Ontario high school students who accepted their offer of admission at Laurier was up to 4,646, an increase of 16.1 per cent or 645 students.

International undergraduate applications to Laurier increased by 48.3 per cent, while the undergraduate visa applications at UW rose up to 27 per cent. Applications from the United States have also increased to 39 per cent and graduate school applications also rose to 31 per cent.

While the political and social climate of countries in Asia and Europe plays a key role, the weak Canadian loonie and general interest in the country are other significant factors for the major increase in applications.

According to Alistair Edgar, associate professor in Laurier’s department of political science, as well as the executive director for the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), there are many reasons as to why Canadian universities are seen as more attractive for undergraduate and graduate students.

“Money does matter,” Edgar said. “And the relatively low Canadian dollar compared to the US dollar, but also to other currencies in a sense, reduces the costs for foreign students coming here.”

Edgar explained that if international students are striving for economic value when looking at post-secondary institutions, a lower dollar can influence their decision when applying to different programs in Canada and the United States.

“[International students] look at our programs and they then check the value money-wise of coming here, and all of those things make sense.”

Massi Basiri, COO of ApplyBoard, an online site that assists international students in applying for universities in Canada and the US, explained that all universities across the country, including Laurier and UW, are experiencing an influx of international student applications.

He also interestingly noted that there has been a decline in applications to universities in the US because of the political climate, particularly due to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“We ourselves had a decline in our United [States] applications,” Basiri said. “Canada is welcoming in so many international students and if you look at the numbers it’s increasing every year, while in the United States this was the first year that the number of international students actually did not grow and it decreased.”

Once they complete their studies, international students in Canada are eligible for a three-year work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.

If a student desires to stay in Canada as a permanent resident, they are able to apply to a number of programs with their own requirements. According to Basiri, this permit can make a difference for students who choose to go to school in Canada rather than any other country.

“[International students] do not want to spend 200 thousand dollars and not be even able to stay in the United States, so they much prefer to go to other countries so then at least when they got the education from that country they have opportunities if they decide to stay in that country.”

Some international students from countries of intense political and social climate, such as Turkey, may also decide to study in Canada for safety and security reasons. According to Edgar, the country renders a more attractive and welcoming face to international students and their families.

Edgar also noted he has recently been approached by a number of graduate students from Turkey who are nervous about the direction their country has been taking. In July 2016, an unsuccessful coup attempt tried to evict the Turkish government.

“They don’t see a future for themselves for independent academics in that country and they’re starting to look for graduate programs outside and again; awareness of Canada develops us as the potential place to come,” Edgar said.

According to Edgar, the rise in international students will greatly benefit the Waterloo region, as the area will increasingly become more diverse and more students will go back to their home country with advanced knowledge about Canadian life and culture.

“It’s a long-term benefit and I always think it’s a very good long-term benefit for this part of Canada – but also for the entire country,” Edgar said.

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