In the wake of the referendum result in which voters in the UK opted to leave the European Union (EU), many prospective international students are looking across the Atlantic for higher education options.
With its world-famous universities and exciting job opportunities, the United Kingdom (UK) has long been a popular destination for international students. But changes in financial and social support for international students in the UK in recent years have contributed to a decline in international students moving to the UK. Meanwhile, in a turn of events indicative of both a welcoming attitude towards newcomers and an acknowledgement that students are vital to the workforce and social fabric of a country, Canada is seeing a surge in popularity among international students.
The Brexit Effect
Many predictions surround the timeline for Britain’s exit from the EU (commonly known as Brexit), but most experts estimate the process will take at least two years. As politicians scramble with uncertainty as to how the country will split from the EU, no vision has yet emerged for the structure of higher education post-Brexit.
With most Bachelor’s Degree programs in the UK lasting at least three years, citizens from other EU countries may be reluctant to begin a degree in the UK that may soon be adversely affected by harsh new regulations. EU students in the UK will likely face financial challenges if, as expected, they lose the right to pay the same tuition fees as students from the UK (which are lower than those for non-EU students). Similarly, while EU students in the UK currently have access to the same student loan options as British citizens, losing this support may make studying in the UK practically impossible for many EU citizens. Visa requirements are also likely to become more demanding, as EU citizens may be forced to comply with the conditions already faced by their non-EU peers.
From confusion surrounding health insurance requirements, to worrying accounts of deportation, even now international students in the UK face many financial, bureaucratic, and personal challenges. In 2015, a new policy was introduced to limit, or even prohibit, non-EU students from working during their studies. In addition, non-EU graduates intending to pursue further studies or work in the UK typically have to leave the country before applying for renewed status.
Another stipulation in the policy forces students wishing to extend their study visa to prove nine months of financial resources, as opposed to two months as previously required. Education experts and academics in the UK worry that as international students are discouraged from attending UK universities and colleges, the diversity of programs and expertise on offer will decrease — a factor that will affect British and international students alike. Future changes to eligibility requirements for visas are also expected to be introduced, including a salary requirement for individuals seeking a work permit after graduating with a UK diploma. This salary requirement could rise to a level unattainable for most graduates.
The Canadian Advantage
In an article published post-Brexit, the Conference Board of Canada — a Canadian not-for-profit think tank dedicated to researching and analyzing economic trends, as well as organizational performance and public policy issues — stated that:
‘The lack of stability in Europe juxtaposes Canada’s sunnier landscape. Canada provides a welcoming contrast marked by academic excellence, continued liberalism, and a warm openness to diversity. Our universities and colleges, if they choose to collaborate, are well-positioned to expand the flow of international academics and students who wish to learn, study, and conduct research at our post-secondary institutions.’
Canada has many attractions for people looking to study abroad. In addition to having access to student loan options, international students have the freedom to work off-campus during their studies. Whether it is an internship to gain experience in the field or a service job to fund living expenses, international students have access to a wide range of employment prospects during their studies in Canada. The opportunity to work while studying is often a crucial part of the decision to pursue higher education in Canada.
Canadian universities and colleges offer a high standard of education often at a fraction of the cost of competitor countries. Students from the United States, for example, have long been seduced by their neighbour to the north, and statistics show that British students are increasingly considering Canada as an option; this has particularly been the case after tuition fees in the UK tripled for British and EU citizens alike in 2012. In fact, international tuition fees at most Canadian universities are now comparable to the fees UK students pay at home. Add to that the low cost of living, which in Canada is estimated at $800-900 CAD per month depending on location — versus estimates up to $1,700 CAD in the UK — and Canada becomes an even more attractive study destination.
After graduation, international graduates from Canadian colleges and universities continue to benefit from incentives to work and settle in Canada. Graduates do not need a job offer or minimum salary to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), an open work permit which is valid for up to three years depending on the program of study completed. Experience gained while working on a PGWP can be counted towards an application for permanent residence through many programs, including the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Class, the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), and the Quebec Experience Class. Moreover, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, has pledged to introduce reforms to the process for international graduates applying for Canadian permanent residence. Not only is studying in Canada a sensible financial decision for many students, it is an open door to an exciting future in one of the world’s leading economies.
To learn more about studying in Canada, click here. There are also a range of tools and resources available for prospective students in Canada, including Canada School Search and School Match Canada.
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