‘Trump bump’ behind sharp rise in Indians applying to Canadian universities
Earlier this month, when the Canadian government’s New Delhi Immigration Section sent out an acknowledgement letter to an Indian student who had applied for a visa, it began: “Thank you for choosing Canada! We know this is a very exciting time in planning an important change in your life.”
That welcoming note is part of the overt attempt by Canada to attract more Indian students, even as many are chary of the United States, given the anti-immigration climate prevalent there.
“It relates to what’s going on in the US and the culture there. Also, Canada is capitalising on that,” said Ravi Jain, partner at the Toronto immigration law firm Green and Spiegel LLP.
As Canada’s new school year approaches, major universities are witnessing a “Trump bump” in terms of applications from international students, particularly those from India. In the latter category, the increase is nearly 50% or more compared to the previous year.
While this trend surfaced earlier this year, it is now evident it was not a temporary phenomenon as the unusual jump in enrolment numbers has held even as the admissions calendar enters its final phase.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of new undergraduate students with Indian citizenship registering for the 2017-18 academic year. More than 300 new undergraduate students from India have registered, compared to just over 200 new students in 2016,” Karen McKellin, executive director, International Student Initiative at the University of British Columbia (UBC), said in an email.
Those numbers aren’t yet final but a significant rise is certain.
McKellin said, “What may be driving the increase at the undergraduate level is partially because more Indian students are prepared to study abroad for their undergraduate degree, whereas in the past Indian students more typically travelled abroad for graduate studies.
“The recent growth in Indian undergraduates at UBC is also the result of UBC recruiting more pro-actively in India. UBC’s growing reputation for excellence in India, as well as the breadth and depth of our programmes is successfully attracting outstanding students from good schools across India to our institution. Finally, some Indian families may be looking at sending students to Canada to study because of the opportunity to work in Canada for three years post-graduation, and perceptions that Canada is a safe and culturally diverse society with an exceptionally strong educational system.”
Jain said, “Canada is doing more because of what’s going on in the US. It’s changing policies so it is even more attractive to international students.”
Other than the absence of a hostile environment, a clear pathway to permanent residency and more certainty in the system are helping cement the unprecedented rush, Jain felt.
UBC isn’t the only beneficiary. At the University of Toronto, the number of students applying from India has increased by 57%. Students accepted from India increased by 45% to 315, compared with 218 last year, according to data provided by the university.
The situation is similar at Montreal’s McGill University, where there has been a 58.3% increase since fall 2016 in applications from Indian visa students coming from schools in India.
Canadian universities have seen a gradual increase in the number of India students, but there’s never been as sharp a spike as for the forthcoming academic year.
And as the letter to a prospective student shows, there is a distinct effort at “making the experience better, even the language now is much more friendly”, as Jain explained. That approach has gone from proforma to proactive.