Canada and Australia lose allure for international students

US, with the looming possibility of a second Trump presidency, deemed a more reliable education prospect than its anglophone rivals

April 30, 2024
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Australia and Canada have relinquished their status as preferred international education destinations, with globally mobile students turning instead to the US.

A survey by global services company IDP Education suggests that policy volatility in Australia, Canada and the UK is unsettling international enrolments, as 41 per cent of prospective students reconsider their study abroad plans.

The US appears to have been the main beneficiary, claiming top spot in a league table of first-choice destinations – up from fourth place the last time the survey was conducted, in August 2023. The surge in US popularity has occurred mainly at the expense of Canada, which tumbled from joint first to fourth place.

Australia also lost ground, slipping from equal first to second on the league table, with the UK retaining third place.

The survey, the latest iteration of IDP’s Emerging Futures series of studies, collated the views of more than 11,500 prospective and current international students from 117 countries. The findings suggest that many people consider the US, with the looming possibility of a second Trump presidency, to be a more reliable education prospect than its anglophone rivals.

IDP Education chief executive Tennealle O’Shannessy said the results demonstrated the impact of “visa and policy disruption” in destination countries. “Demand is inevitably being affected, and it is increasingly difficult for driven and bright students across the world to pursue their global goals,” she said.

The findings come as Canada implements a new cap on student visas, and as Australia implements new visa processing policies that have put extra obstacles in the way of students from South-east Asia, Africa and Latin America. Meanwhile, the UK has barred master’s students from bringing dependants with them for the duration of their courses, and is reviewing its post-study work visa.

Simon Emmett, chief executive of recruitment arm IDP Connect, said students were determined to bring their “global study dreams” to life. “But [they] are sensitive to policy changes,” he said. “Governments in the UK, Australia and Canada need to provide clarity on international student policies in order to maintain the competitive advantage they have in this global industry.”

Survey participants ranked the US highest for quality of education, graduate employment opportunities and value for money. They considered the “availability of graduate employment schemes” to be a hallmark of educational quality, alongside institutional reputation and ranking and diversity of academic programmes.

Demand for jobs in the destination countries was generally considered more important than demand at home, the survey found.

Destination companies have not been alone in experiencing a reversal of fortunes. IDP’s share price on the Australian Stock Exchange tumbled to a 44-month low of A$15.92 (£8.34) on 26 April, down from a peak of A$38.88 in November 2021.

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