Canada and Australia: The dark horses of international education

“The diversity in Canada’s student population is something that Australia is looking to replicate”

Graham Edward is Enterprise Sales manager at edtech platform, Cohort Go. In this blog, he discusses some of the similarities and differences between the “dark horses” of international education, Canada and Australia.

 With roughly five million students studying internationally in 2017 alone, the future looks bright for international educational institutions – especially those in Canada and Australia. These two countries are consistently ranked in the top five for inbound international students. When you consider that the top two countries on that list – the United Kingdom and the United States – are facing continued political challenges that could potentially alienate students, the maple leaf and southern cross shine as top contenders.

Between 2016 and 2017, Canada recorded a 17% increase in international student numbers, and for the first time last year, leapt ahead of both Australia and France to become the fourth most popular destination for international students globally.

Similarly, Australia continues to grow its international student numbers; recording an 11% increase between December 2017 and December 2018. Interestingly, when analyzing the student recruitment approach that these two countries take, there are striking similarities and big differences. It’s important to see how these two countries stack up, and what they can learn from each other.

Unifying the industry

The education industry has a reputation for being siloed, but Australia is a market leader when it comes to rolling out national reforms that positively impact the entire ecosystem.

The implementation of CRICOS – the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students – provides a central listing of all education providers offering courses to students on visas, and has created complete visibility regarding international student numbers. Students moving to Australia also need Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to secure their student visa. This has created strong industry collaboration and provides a safety net; ensuring that students have consistent coverage if health issues arise.

Canada has also taken large strides towards creating a more unified sector in recent years. Previously, each province had autonomy over the way they operated courses, and the rules imposed on providers, but this is becoming more centralized. Health insurance is yet to catch up to this centralised approach. While international students are required to have health insurance in Canada, the requirements for medical coverage still vary from province to province.

However, when you consider that some US visa types – such as the F1 and M-1 visa – don’t even have federally mandated requirements for health insurance (in a country without universal health care), this certainly puts providers in Australia and Canada at an advantage.


Canada is home to a diverse group of international students, with China, India, South Korea, France and Vietnam its top five source countries. In addition to sourcing students from South East Asia, institutions across Canada are taking advantage of the current political climate in the US and are beginning to attract students from South America. Canadian cities vary in their preference for students.

For example, Toronto has significant Indian, Chinese and Brazilian populations; Montreal has more students from Mexico, Columbia and Latin America; and international students in Vancouver are predominantly from China, Japan and Korea.

The diversity in Canada’s student population is something that Australia is looking to replicate. While there has been some strong growth from India – which has emerged as a prime market for Australian universities – education providers still place a strong emphasis on China, which has caused auditors to warn them about relying on one single source country.

“These two countries are consistently ranked in the top five for inbound international students”

Immigration opportunities

When it comes to working after graduation, both Canada and Australia offer some great options for international students. Canada’s post-graduation work permit (PGWP) allows graduates of Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) to work in Canada for up to three years. The government also notes that work obtained through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program may help support an application to become a permanent resident.

In Australia, two types of Temporary Graduate visas are available. The Graduate Work stream allows a stay of up to 18 months and is for recent graduates with skills and qualifications that are relevant to specific occupations.

The Post-Study Work stream is for international students who have recently graduated with a degree from an Australian institution. Depending on the qualification, students can stay between two and four years. Additionally, Australia has introduced new initiatives to attract graduates to regional areas. International graduates from regional campuses can apply for a second Temporary Graduate visa with an extra year of post-study work.

Both Australia and Canada recognise that international students are valuable to the economy. Amid a global skills shortage, particularly severe in certain sectors such as technology, engineering and healthcare, retaining highly skilled graduates is important for long term growth. Because of this, it’s likely that both Australia and Canada will continue to unify their international education industry, diversify its student populations and introduce ways for graduates to stay on after they complete their studies.

About the author: Graham Edward is Enterprise Sales Manager of Cohort Go; a leading edtech platform that maximizes agent performance for education providers and simplifies global payments for the entire international education ecosystem.