Canada continues to build momentum as one of the most attractive study destinations

In May 2020 Navitas surveyed its global agent network to explore how COVID-19 was changing the fortunes of international study destinations. Findings from that initial survey showed that Canada’ reputation as a study destination had been enhanced by its government’s handling of the pandemic. At that time, New Zealand, Australia and Canada were leading the pack.

In September 2020 Navitas repeated its research, seeking to understand how agent perceptions have evolved with the continuing COVID-19 crisis and what this might mean for international education in the short to medium term. The findings show that Canada has slightly improved its position overall, but is now competing with the UK as opposed to Australia and New Zealand.

While the big change in agent sentiment from May to September was a marked improvement in perceptions of the UK, this should not eclipse the continued positivity towards Canada as a destination for international students. On the question of whether ‘there has been more interest in this country as an education destination compared to other countries’, 65% of agents agree/strongly agree with statement for Canada. This is a very strong outcome for the Canadians – effectively equal first with the British. Canada also has the lowest proportion of respondents that would disagree/strongly disagree with that sentiment out of the five Anglophone destinations in the Navitas survey.


Figure 1: Over the past two months, there has been more interest in this country as an education destination compared to other countries.


Canada’s consistent performance is laudable. On the measure of the government’s handling of the coronavirus, Canada is in second place behind New Zealand; likewise on the measure of being safe and stable. On the measure of being open and welcoming, Canada is second only to the UK.

Almost 30% of agents expect that it is ‘almost certain’ that students will be able to travel to Canada in the first half of 2021. This is some distance behind the UK but ahead of Australia, New Zealand and USA.

The Canadian government has since announced that international students will be able to enter Canada from 20 October. There are no restrictions on where students are travelling from and when their study permit was approved. True to Canada’s federation, it is ultimately up to each province to approve the COVID-19 readiness plans of each institution; the potential downside of such an approach is the potential for a diversity of approaches leading to confusion, and also the risk that variation in readiness plans inadvertently allows community transmission (even Melbourne’s secure supervised hotel quarantine allowed community transmission to occur). While this has been welcome news for the sector, it remains to be seen whether other constraints on the ability to access English test centres and Visa Application Centres will continue to limit the number of international student arrivals.

For a broad overview of the latest survey findings please see, ‘Perceptions of study destinations are changing as pandemic persists‘.

You may also be interested in what the findings tell us about the current appeal of the UK and Australia as international study destinations.

About The Author

Jon Chew is the Global Head of Insights and Analytics at Navitas, and is one of Australia's foremost experts in international education market trends. The key theme throughout Jon's work has been the interrogation and interpretation of diverse quantitative and qualitative data to uncover the underlying narrative and meaning. His ultimate goal is to influence critical decisions through clear, rigorous and actionable insights. Jon's approach is characterised by deep technical expertise, storytelling, and a genuinely collaborative approach. Jon is passionate about education and is himself a product of global mobility having grown up in Malaysia and making the transition to university many years ago via a pathway program.

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