International students determined to study in Canada despite Coronavirus

International students determined to study in Canada despite Coronavirus

Survey shows most international students are determined to study abroad despite travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, though face-to-face study is preferable to online courses.

Most aspiring international students in a recent survey say the coronavirus pandemic is not stopping them from pursuing their post-secondary education abroad. That being said, many would still prefer the face-to-face study experience over online learning, according to the survey conducted by international education specialists.

Some 69 per cent of the 6,900 international student applicants surveyed intend to commence their studies as planned. Only five per cent said they would no longer continue studying. Most of the participants were from India, China, and Bangladesh, among other Asian countries. The destination countries of these students were Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, and New Zealand.

The majority of people said they would prefer to defer their study plans until face-to-face classes were available, mainly because the online option lacks the international exposure most were hoping to gain. It was noted that just over half of participants, 54 per cent, would be willing to defer their studies up to 12 months or less before pursuing other options. Thirty-one per cent of respondents stated they would be willing to start their course online and move to face-to-face learning at a later date, but by far the greatest preference was to defer to January 2021 if this meant face-to-face learning would be possible.

Based on the results, it is recommended that post-secondary institutions provide clarity on how and when face-to-face teaching will resume, and to prepare for large cohorts of students commencing face-to-face studies from January to May, 2021. Survey participants got to rank destination countries on a scale of 1-10 based on their pre-conceived perceptions.

Though Australia and Canada were the preferred destination countries of the overwhelming majority of participants, Canada was highly regarded for its welfare of international students, and the economic stability of the nation. Canada was also seen as having the least prohibitive travel restrictions. University activity as provinces loosen coronavirus restrictions. As Canadian provinces start pulling back coronavirus measures, some universities are also opening their facilities.

McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, will commence the first stage of its phase-in to operation on May 11, allowing some on-campus researchers to go back to work. Researchers will be required to follow the university’s directives, which include adhering to safety protocols, being prepared to shut down in case of changes at the institution or government level, among others. The Université du Québec à Montréal is also welcoming back researchers. They did not specify which ones exactly, just that their work needs to require them to be physically present on campus, and working from home is still preferred.

The University of Prince Edward Island will allow researchers, faculty, and graduate students to conduct research on campus as of May 25. They are also allowing some key staff and the management team to meet on campus, while encouraging social distancing and working from home when possible. The second phase is set to begin June 15, upon evaluation of the first phase, where they may expand the number of people allowed on campus. The third phase, another expansion, is scheduled to begin August 1, where they will prepare for the fall academic semester.

How Canadians are helping international students

Canada is helping international students a number of ways such as increasing the number of working hours allowed from 20 to 40 for certain occupations, and opening up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to them, which provides recipients $2,000 per month. Quebec will automatically extend the Quebec Acceptance Certificates of international students if they are set to expire before December 31, 2020.

For those international students who still fall through the cracks, advocates are pressuring the federal government to do more. David Dingwall, president of Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia, recently called on the federal government to open up the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) to international students as well as Canadian students. Introduced in late April, the CESB will provide up to $1,750 in monthly income assistance to eligible students, but international students are excluded from the program.

“Eligibility for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit is aligned with the Canada Student Loans Program in that it is aimed at Canadian citizens and permanent residents,” a spokesperson with Employment and Social Development Canada wrote CIC News in an email.

Though Dingwall’s media release said the student benefit “acknowledges the contributions that [Canadian] post-secondary students make to our country,” he also said “it fails to recognize the contributions that international students make to Canada.” Nova Scotia was home to 11,817 international students in October, 2019, according to the Association of Atlantic Universities. “The impact [that international students have] on our small province is enormous,” Dingwall said in the release. “I am confident that Universities in Canada and its members will continue to advocate for our international students.”

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