Canada cashes in as US toughens up visa policies

January 23, 2004

Increased restrictions on foreign students in the US may have boosted international student numbers in Canada by more than 15 per cent.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has said that foreign-student enrolment is up more than 15 per cent, with several institutions reporting rises of 25 per cent in autumn 2003, compared with 2002.

The biggest rise was at the University of Manitoba, where enrolments jumped more than 40 per cent and the number of applications was up 75 per cent over the previous year.

After five years of steady rises in the US, the number of international students in 2002-03 showed only a slight increase over the previous year, up less than 1 per cent.

The Institute of International Education, which tracks the US numbers, reported that 46 per cent of respondents suffered falls in international-student enrolments.

Most telling were the decreases in the number of students from the Middle East, down 10 per cent from the previous year, with drops of 25 per cent each from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and 15 per cent from the United Arab Emirates.

Many Canadian universities attributed their success to recruitment efforts in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, but others cited tougher restrictions on foreign students applying to the US as a factor that made Canada a more foreigner-friendly option.

Ulrich Scheck, dean of graduate studies and research at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, told the AUCC's University Affairs Magazine that the terrorist attacks of September 2001 and "the subsequent more restrictive US policies" had encouraged the increase.

Rebecca Wasserman, president of the United States Student Association, said there was a connection between the low numbers in the US, the high numbers in Canada and the difficulties facing foreign students in her country.

The USSA has been fighting "racial profiling" of foreign students and the Border Security Act, which places a "higher standard of scrutiny" on countries the State Department believes to be "sponsors of terrorism", such as Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Libya and Syria.

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