With 2018 coming to a close, it is a good time to look back at the year gone by & review the trends within the international education sector where perhaps the biggest news has been the continuing dominance in terms of students taking up tertiary education in Canadian universities.

Canada’s dominance

Over the last few decades, international students have consistently preferred to study in English-speaking countries like the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand where this is primarily on account of these countries having top educational institutions with a wide selection of programs to choose from. But in recent years, Canada has experienced an increase in international student interest while the United States, along with other competing countries, have faced the opposite trend.

While the overall number of international students in the U.S. remains much higher than most other countries, the growth has reached a plateau due to recent student visa limitations.  As for other countries, recent safety issues in Australia and tougher immigration policies in the U.K. could help to explain their situation. As for Canada, it has chosen to ramp up its offer to international students, quietly and quickly. Between 2015 and 2017 alone, the number of international students in Canada increased by over 40 per cent. In 2017, international students contributed almost $19 billion to Canada’s economy through tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending – positioning education as the fourth largest export sector in the Canadian economy. Recently the country reached its 2022 goal of hosting 450,000 foreign students early, by enrolling more than 494,000 students.

The fastest-growing source markets were China and India (which together account for just over half of all international enrolment in the country), along with Brazil, Vietnam, and the Philippines where a recent study conducted by ICEF concluded that the primary reasons students provided for choice of country to study were: the availability of study visas (70 percent), finances (35 percent) and the global economic and political situation (25 percent). Canada has got its act together having recently stepped up its open-door policy, offering postgraduate work permits and permanent residency opportunities has had international students flocking to this destination.

Positive impact on countries seeing Canadian citizenship

The result of the Trump administration continuing to tighten the H-1B visa rules and Canada’s reputation for openness, safety, and a welcoming environment, has resulted in a 50% rise in citizenship granted to Indians in the period of 10 months ending October 2018. Several thousands of Indians have opted for the Canadian citizenship after spending the specified duration for permanent residence. Nearly 15,000 Indians obtained citizenship during that period, which is a significant rise of 50% from last year.

Responding to queries by Times of India, Canadian authorities said that India has the second-highest number of citizenship applications. The only other country to top India is Philippines. Around 15,642 Filipinos became Canadian citizens in that period, a rise of 11% from last year’s 14,058.

China in the spotlight

Another country in the spotlight has been China with solid performance as an education destination with almost 500,000 internationals enrolled – similar to Canada’s curve.  It is way ahead to meet its self-imposed target of hosting 500,000 international students by 2020 – a figure that, based on current numbers, would see it leapfrog the UK in that particular league table. This growth is bound to continue considering that the China government wants to boost the internationalisation of its universities as part of a ‘soft power’ policy to project China internationally.

In August, as part of a series of positive policy changes, the Chinese Ministry of Education revealed plans to allow international students at Chinese universities nationwide to work part-time, while also boosting the allocated budget for educating of international students by 16%.

Japan’s steady growth

Another Asian country is posting impressive growth as well: Japan, where international student numbers have grown for five consecutive years. 
Japan’s goal is to host 300,000 international students by 2020, and it may reach that target by late 2018 or early 2019 if the current growth trend continues. Japan’s success in increasing its foreign enrolments is due to a number of factors, but particularly interesting has been the country’s astute understanding that international students put employability high on their list of goals when they decide where to study. The Japanese government has for some time been supporting subsidised company internships, help with finding jobs on graduation, additional Japanese language courses, and more streamlined processes for work visas to international students.

UK, getting its act together?

In the meantime, fresh from set backs with decline in international student recruitment, a white paper titled The UK’s future skills-based immigration system, has been published by the UK government which highlights that students who have completed their bachelor’s and master’s studies can enjoy a six-month post-study leave. The paper noted that: “We will also allow for students studying at bachelor’s level or above to be able to apply to switch into the skilled workers route up to three months before the end of their course in the UK, and from outside of the UK for two years after their graduation. “Recent data show that the gap between the UK and other countries is shrinking and the UK may soon fall to third place,” said the report, adding that Australia is already overtaking the UK as the second biggest destination for overseas students.

New Zealand’s new post-study work rights

Other country in the limelight was New Zealand with the government unveiling new post-study work rights with an emphasis on reducing exploitation in the workplace, in a move that will see the country leapfrog others to offer the second most generous post-study work rights in the world. The announced changes, which came into effect on November 26, see a significant overhaul of New Zealand’s post-study work rights, with grandfathered arrangements available to all current student and post-study work visa holders.

The new rights will see those who receive a study visa for Level 7 bachelor’s degree or higher provided a three-year open post-study work visa, while Level 4-6 students who have studied a minimum of 60 weeks will receive a one-year open visa. With this, New Zealand will sit behind only Canada in least restrictive conditions, and surpass Australia’s two-year offering for undergraduates.

France announces hike in university fees for non-EU students

On 19 November, French prime minister Édouard Philippe announced government plans for an astronomical rise in university fees for non-EU students. Currently, where you come from does not affect how much you pay to study in France: it costs €170 a year for an undergraduate degree, a €243 a year for a masters, and €380 a year for a PhD. For students from outside Europe the government plans to increase the cost to €2770 a year for undergraduates and €3770 a year for masters and PhD students effective September 2019.

Under the plan, France will simplify student visa regulations but will also increase tuition fees for students outside the European Economic Area in order to be able to provide better facilities. Despite the increase, fees will still be much lower than in Britain and other neighbouring countries.

From March 2019, foreign graduates with a French master’s degree will be able to get a residence visa to look for work or set up a business in France.

In an ironic twist reminiscent of Trumpian policy flourishes, these fee hikes are part of a package of measures entitled #BienvenueEnFrance (Welcome to France). The government’s stated objective is to increase the number of foreign students from 324,000 to 500,000 by 2027 — by making them pay at least ten times more.

US endorses use of education agents

Finally, late in the year, with declining new enrolments in the US, documented by the Open Doors report for the second year in a row,
the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs was in Miami to announce to the AIRC community that the EducationUSA network was ready to engage with education agencies among “all our counterparts in the US higher education community”. With this, the US Department of State has officially endorsed the usage of education agents, for the first time. This is an historic and significant move, given the EducationUSA network managed by the State Dept had previously not maintained business relations with agents, unlike the Department of Commerce.

That was a brief round-up of the biggest stories of 2018. In case, there are important stories missed, please let us know at the Blue-Sky blog contact page for inclusion. 

Blue-Sky wishes all readers a very happy new new year 2019!

2018 in Retrospect

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