Market Analysis
Favourable exchange rates and a reputation for giving international visitors and immigrants a warm welcome helped boost Canada's international student numbers in 2016.

In contrast to the English teaching industries in the USA and UK, which are labouring under political decisions that have made their countries appear less welcoming to international visitors, Canada is rising high on its reputation as an open and tolerant host to foreign students. This, together with a favourable exchange rate, has meant that its appeal as a language study destination has grown. The strong US dollar and turbulence in the UK caused by the Brexit vote are both making Canada a more attractive destination, asserts Nam Park, Global Sales Director at ILSC Education Group



Frances Seaton, Centre Director at St Giles Vancouver, BC, also reports that Canada is gaining ground over the USA and the UK. "Canada was in a better situation than the UK and USA (our other locations) due to safety issues and the economy," she reports.


On the whole, the Canadian language teaching market experienced a stable year in 2016. Cecilia Ramirez-Thomas, Marketing Manager at Village English in Streetsville, ON, reports that their student numbers were much the same in 2016 as in 2015 with high demand for test preparation courses, and losses in the long-term sector offset by gains in the short-term sector. Other schools fared better; ILSC, for example, experienced a 20 per cent hike in student numbers in 2016 mainly owing to the growing popularity of its pathway programmes.



Looking at Canada's main international student nationalities, the top countries of origin at English language schools were Brazilian, Japanese, South Korean, Chinese, and Mexican, in keeping with 2015 findings. It wasn't all smooth sailing for the Canadian English teaching market in 2016, however, with a number of external factors exerting a negative impact on enrolments from certain countries. For example, changes in the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme have had a significantly adverse impact on demand from Saudi Arabia: according to our own ST school survey statistics, Saudi Arabian student numbers have almost halved in the period from 2014 to 2016.


Another barrier to growth has been the implementation in July 2016 of the 'double-visa' regulation affecting students who study a language in preparation for further studies. Students have to finish their language programme before applying for their follow-on visa which can result in a gap between studies of up to 12 months for some students. There have also been difficulties in gaining visa entry for students from some individual countries. "Students from Thailand have had some trouble," confirms Nam, "and may be viewed a 'high risk' market.



For a certain period it was difficult for Russian students to gain visas due to sanctions on Russia, and students from the Ukraine had some difficulty because of an increase of refugee status claims made from that region. We also saw some challenges for Turkish, Venezuelan and Colombian markets." Economic factors have also affected demand. Frances reports that they have experienced "a fewer number of Brazilians [becuase of their unfavourable economy], and an increase in Mexico and Colombia due to agent agreements and favourable politics."



Notwithstanding, industry sources are optimistic for 2017 thanks to more positive regulatory changes introduced at the end of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. Since December 2016, Mexicans no longer need a visa to visit Canada. A further change in visa regulations in April 2017 has meant that Brazilians, Bulgarians and Romanians can all re-enter Canada with previously issued visas. According to Rachel Lindsey at Languages Canada, these two factors combined have contributed "to the busiest summer season for our members in several years", and they remain cautiously optimistic for the year end.



Rachel Lindsey, Director, International Affairs and Operations, Languages Canada


"Through a combination of factors, Canada is an increasingly attractive market to countries like Mexico and Latin America, which tend to favour short-term summer study. We are cautiously optimistic for continued growth in student numbers for 2017, due in part to visa regulation changes for Mexico and Brazil, the low Canadian dollar and the 'Brexit' and 'Trump' effects in the UK and US markets."



Thanks to the following schools who participated in our survey:
ABC ESL Canada,; ACCESS International English Language Centre,; Connect School of Languages,; East Coast School of Languages (ECSL Halifax),; Global Village Calgary,; Hansa Language Centre,; Heartland International English School,; ILSC Education Group,; International Gateway Kelowna,; London Language Institute,; MWS Student Camps International Inc.,; Sprott Shaw Language College (formerly SEC),; St Giles Vancouver,; Study Abroad Canada Language Institute,; VanWest College,; YMCA International Language School,



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