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‘Trump Effect’ has Indian students making beeline for Canadian varsities

A growing number of Indian students are applying to universities in Canada against the backdrop of a spike in attacks on immigrants in the United States.

world Updated: Mar 14, 2017 12:49 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
File photo of the downtown Toronto campus of the University of Toronto
File photo of the downtown Toronto campus of the University of Toronto(Courtesy University of Toronto)

In the backwash of the Trump Effect, universities in Canada are witnessing a surge in the number of applicants from India as well as students enrolled in US schools exploring a transfer.

For instance, the University of Toronto, a premier Canadian public university, has recorded a steep increase in applicants for the school year beginning in September – up from 793 at the end of February last year to 1,263 this year.

This is a record year in that sense for the varsity located in Canada’s largest city, and its vice-president (international), Professor Ted Sargent, said, “That’s up 60% year over year. It’s increasing every year and this is a big jump for us.”

Professor Ted Sargent, vice-president (international) at the University of Toronto. (Courtesy University of Toronto)

Obviously, other factors play into the choice. Principal among them are the excellence of the institution and employability offered by a degree there.

Asked if the anti-immigrant environment in the United States played into the decision as well, Sargent said, “I think it’s probably part of the mix. Once they (the students) get past those two things, excellence of education and employability, they then say, ‘Will I feel accepted, will I feel safe?’”

He said he noticed this trend among students from India and the US, and also from researchers and faculty members: “There’s a real upswing in interest in University of Toronto. There’s definitely a spike going on right at the moment.”

That increase may accentuate in the years ahead if American policy turns immigrant-unfriendly.

Mel Broitman, director of the Canadian University Application Centre (CUAC), said, “I expect that interest to grow. I anticipate a growth of 20% this year and 50% next year.”

Mel Broitman, director of the Canadian University Application Centre. (Courtesy Canadian University Application Centre)

Referring to recent attacks against Indians and American citizens of Indian-origin in Kansas and Seattle, Broitman said “people are starting to get a little bit panic-stricken”.

CUAC’s four offices in India have seen a sharp rise in the number of calls coming in, some from students who were originally planning to study in the US or are already enrolled in US schools and are exploring a transfer.

Canada’s higher education system, Broitman felt, was getting its due: “It’s not a second-best choice for quality, it’s just that people have always been thinking about America.”

Sargent believes Canada’s openness is a draw for international students.

“There are some other parts of the world that are looking inwards. And Canada is looking outwards and reaching out globally. I think it’s a competitive advantage for our nation,” he said.

Recruiters are seeking to leverage this situation. Broitman will head to India after the board examinations are completed.

For University of Toronto, India “has been a priority for years” and Sargent will be in New Delhi and Mumbai later this month for a visit with an agenda that includes honing alumni networks, research partnerships, and attracting even more Indian students.

As he said, “We want to double down in India.”