Nova Scotia is optimistic the number of international students coming to the province will surpass its pre-pandemic 2019 peak.
“Now that many of the travel restrictions have been lifted and we’ve shifted to a living with COVID-19 approach, we anticipate our numbers to not only stabilize, but surpass the pre-pandemic figures,” says Chrissy Matheson, director of media relations for the province, in a statement.
According to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the country issued 446,315 study permits for international students in 2021, beating its 2019 number of 400,875, which then dropped in 2020 because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nova Scotia numbers rose steadily beginning in 2015 and peaked in 2019 at 10,350, before dropping in half for 2020, according to IRCC statistics. Nova Scotia’s 2021 numbers fell short of its pre-pandemic peak, coming in at 9,990.
For the past five academic years, China has been the country of origin for the largest number of international students in Nova Scotia, averaging around 3,448 students per year, according to numbers provided by the province.
India remains the second largest country of origin, but the number of students increased from 539 in 2016-17 to 3,383 in 2020-21.
Matheson says attracting and retaining both domestic and international students is a key part of the province’s population and workforce goals. The province is looking to double its population to two million by 2060, by adding 25,000 new residents per year.
A recent report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council notes surveys from late last year indicate widespread labour shortages are a key concern for Atlantic employers. Pre-pandemic surveys suggested about half of Atlantic employers were having a tough time attracting and retaining labour.
“With an aging workforce and growing number of retirees, this is a prime contributor to labour pressures in the Atlantic region,” the report says.
Matheson says Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions offer a welcoming and supportive experience to international students.
“We value and need our international students and are committed to fostering safe, strong, and accountable post-secondary institutions that represent all students who attend our schools,” she says.