International Students and Education

International education comprises several elements: increased international student access and retention within domestic institutions, growth in numbers of domestic students pursuing opportunities to study abroad, and diversifying institutional administration, staff, faculty, and services to promote internationalization. It is imperative that the Government of Ontario takes steps to enhance each of these areas in order to internationalize its university sector and remain competitive with other jurisdictions around the world.

International students are accessing undergraduate education in Ontario’s university sector at a substantial rate. This growth is highly valued by institutions, as the Council for Ontario Universities maintains, “international students contribute significantly to excellence in education and research, bringing a diversity of perspectives, experiences and languages that enhance the university experience for all students.”[1] The growth of international students contributes substantially to Ontario university budget revenues as a result of their high, deregulated tuition rates. In fact, the average undergraduate tuition rate for international students in Ontario universities is $32,278, and while universities receive extra grants for domestic student enrolment numbers, the combined contributions received by the university sector are still below international student tuition revenues.[2] In short, international students account for approximately 28 percent of the total tuition revenue generated in the Ontario university sector despite only comprising 11 percent of the Ontario undergraduate student population.[3]

While Ontario’s universities continue to be the primary destination for international students studying in Canada, the number of Ontario residents pursuing studies outside of Canada is quite low. In fact, during the 2014-15 academic year, only 2.3 percent of Canadian students studied abroad, with France (14 percent), the United Kingdom (9 percent) and the United States (8 percent) being the most often selected destinations.[4] It is also noteworthy that despite the presence of various financial aid programs from the federal and provincial governments, Ontarians still cite a lack of finances as their greatest barrier to pursuing education abroad.[5] As such, despite the fact that Ontario’s university sector continues to lead in international student recruitment, it is far behind in terms of its outbound students.


[1] Council of Ontario Universities, “International: Why is it important to attract international students to Ontario universities?” accessed February 28, 2017, http://cou.on.ca/faq/important-to-attract-international-students/

[2] Council of Ontario Finance Officers, “Financial Reports: Table 2 – Revenue, Year 2015/2016,” accessed January 30, 2017.

[3] Roslyn Kunin and Associates Inc., “Economic impact of international education in Canada – 2016 update,” Global Affairs Canada, http://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/impact-2016/index.aspx?lang=eng

[4] Canadian Bureau for International Education, “Canada’s performance and potential in international education: Canadian students abroad, 2016,” http://cbie.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Infographic-Study-Abroad_EN.pdf

[5] Government of Ontario, Study abroad: What you need to know if you plan to study at a college or university outside of Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.ontario.ca/page/study-abroad. Canadian Bureau for International Education, “Canada’s performance and potential in international education: Canadian students abroad, 2016,” http://cbie.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Infographic-Study-Abroad_EN.pdf