Canadian policymakers are floating the idea of capping study permits, but they don’t need to. Government of Canada (GoC) data shows a sharp decline in the number of study permit applications in September. When policymakers first pitched the idea of limiting students to help affordability, it appears they were attempting to save face. The public hadn’t seen the data yet, but they were already aware of a sharp decline in people desiring to study in Canada.
Canadian International Study Permit Applications Drop 20%
Canada has seen a sharp drop in the number of international study permit applications. Just 60.3k study permits were processed in September, a 20% (-15.5k) drop from last year. It was the sharpest annual contraction since 2020, when processing was literally closed in many countries.
Canada Has Seen A Dramatic Shift In International Student Applications
Annual change in monthly study permit applications processed, in percentage points.
Source: IRCC; Better Dwelling.
Study Permit Growth Is Collapsing So Fast, This Year May Be Flat
Canada’s strong start to the year is quickly turning into a struggle to grow. Study permit application growth year to date (YTD) has been around 40% for most of the year. A sudden collapse of demand in August has been eroding that YTD growth, pushing it down to 27% in September. That’s an incredibly rapid decline with a very specific turning point, but we’ll come back to that in a second.
The current YTD growth trajectory would see considerably slower growth than in past years. It’s on track to fall to single-digit growth by year-end, a big change from 2022 (+33%), and 2021 (+152%). This decline is almost exclusively a fallout with the country’s largest source of students—India.
India Is Canada’s Largest Source of Students, & Applications Fell 50%
India is still the largest source of international students but that’s changing fast. The country was the source of just 18.8k study permit applications in September, a drop of 51% (-19.7k). India represented nearly half (49%) of all study permit applications in 2022, and is now down 31% YTD.
Canada’s Largest Source of International Students Is No Longer Interested
Annual change in monthly study permit applications from India, in percentage points.
Source: IRCC; Better Dwelling.
Study permit applications from India had an unusual sharp turning point. Many may assume this decline is due to the rising diplomatic tensions. However, the G20 meeting that gave birth to those tensions didn’t occur until mid-September. The latest month only gives us a partial view of the fallout from the latest blow.
India’s study permits began contracting back in August. More likely the discussion on Canada’s exploitation of international students became a bigger issue ahead of this riff. More and more international students have been posting on social media about the hardships they faced in Canada, specifically calling out the high cost of living and lack of opportunity promised.
There’s also just the issue that growth doesn’t last forever. Even if policymakers and industry really need you to believe that’s the case, it isn’t.
The public is seeing this data for the first-time, but policymakers would have known this while it was happening. That makes it even more curious that they floated the idea of putting caps on study permit applications, just a month after it began to contract sharply.