The Student's Voice: National Results of the 2018 CBIE International Student Survey

         RC                       The Student’s Voice:

                                  National Results of the 2018

                                  CBIE International Student Survey


                                      A U G U S T          2 0 1 8

      he Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE)           THE 2018 CBIE
      has been studying, interpreting and sharing the experience      INTERNATIONAL
      of international students in Canada since 1988. The CBIE        STUDENT SURVEY
International Student Survey is a unique, national dataset which
provides critical, holistic insights on the international student     The 2018 survey was live
experience in Canada’s post-secondary institutions, from              from March to May. In total,
pre‑arrival planning through study and post-study phases.             461,2 of CBIE’s university (31),
                                                                      college (12) and polytechnic (3)
Since the inaugural edition           As international student        member institutions surveyed
of the annual International           numbers in Canada reached       their current international
Student Survey for A World of         record highs in 2017, trends    student populations. This
Learning in 2012, the number          in local and global student     group of institutions is diverse
of student respondents and            mobility, geopolitics and       and representative of the
the scope of knowledge and            education generated greater     Canadian post-secondary
trends illuminated through            waves of impact in our          landscape, yielding data that
the dataset have grown                interconnected world. CBIE is   are reliable and valid across
immensely. The survey                 pleased to amplify the voices   the sector. As a national body
increasingly supports the             of international students       CBIE strives for regional and
international education               who choose Canada for their     linguistic representation in
sector’s capacity to drive            post-secondary studies, to      every data collection exercise.
informed, innovative                  celebrate their experiences     In the 2018 survey institutions
practices through increased           and their aspirations, and      from all ten provinces are
familiarity with international        to identify and support our     represented: Seven institutions
students who choose to                sector in maintaining quality   are francophone, two are
study in Canada, and the              post-secondary education        officially bilingual, and the
stories they share with other         experiences for students        remainder operate in English.
prospective students.                 in Canada.                      CBIE received 14,228 complete,

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  Figure 1: Surveys completed by province of study

                British Columbia
                      3,430                                                                                       Newfoundland
                                     Alberta                  Manitoba                                            and Labrador
                                      1,532                     98                                                    395

                                                    733                  Ontario
                                                                          2,933           Quebec


                                                                                          New Brunswick   Nova Scotia
                                                                                               590            63

  useable responses. This                       New Brunswick (590),                     As seen in Figure 2,
  sample is an extraordinary                    Newfoundland and                         approximately 35% of
  253% increase over 2015,                      Labrador (395), Nova Scotia (63),        respondents are studying toward
  making it by far the most                     Ontario (2,933), Prince Edward           a bachelor’s degree, followed by
  robust data source on the post-               Island (17), Quebec (4,437) and          22% pursuing a master’s degree,
  secondary international student               Saskatchewan (733).                      17% are enrolled in a doctoral
  experience in Canada to date.                                                          program, and 13% are pursuing
                                                Characteristics                          a diploma.
  As shown in Figure 1,                         This sample of 14,228
  the provincial representation                 post-secondary international             As shown in Figure 3, most
  of respondents is as follows:                 students represents 4% of all            respondents are in their
  Alberta (1,532), British                      post-secondary international             first year (37%), second or
  Columbia (3,430), Manitoba (98),              students in Canada3.                     third year of a multi-year

  Figure 2: Degree, diploma or certificate sought                                        Figure 3: Year of study

      Bachelor’s degree                                                            35%

        Master’s degree                                        22%
                                                                                                37%             First year

       Doctoral degree                                17%

               Diploma                          13%

      Post-graduate or
post-doctoral certificate                                                                        31%             Second or third
                                                                                                                of multi-year
             Certificate         3%

      ESL/FLS program        2%
                                                                                                24%             Final year of study
      Associate degree     1%

                 Other     1%                                                                   8%              Less than one year

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Figure 4: Region of origin

                                                                                               Eastern Europe
                                                                                               and Central Asia

            United States
             of America
                                                                                                       East Asia
                 6%                                         Middle East and
                                                              North Africa
                                                                 10%                      South Asia

                             Latin America                       14%
                             and Carribean                                                                                     Oceania
                                   11%                                                                                     and South Pacific
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Deciding to study
in Canada                               “I love the fact that we have so much more hands-on experience in all
In the survey, 29% of
                                         the classes. I love the way the professors challenge you and work on
respondents had applied to
institutions in countries other          improving your cognitive skills. I love the way we are guided through
than Canada before ultimately            a course. I love the fact that the professors are passionate about
choosing their current                   what they teach.”
Canadian institution.
                                         Natural sciences student from Moldova (F)

Of the students who applied
to study in another country,
over half (54%) applied to the        market position comes into               Australia and France than
US, 22% applied to the UK,            clearer view (see Figure 7).             China—the world’s third top
and 15% applied to Australia          For example, while Canada’s              study destination. In 2017
(see Figure 6). Adding to the         top two competitors for                  for the first time Canada
analysis the 2017 Project Atlas       international students are the           leapt ahead of both of these
figures detailing top study           top hosts of all international           competitors (Australia and
destinations of international         students (US and UK), Canada             France) with regard to total
students worldwide, Canada’s          competes more directly with              market share.

Figure 6: Countries to which students applied before choosing Canada

                                                    Germany Sweden
                                                      10%     2%

                                      United Kingdom
                                  The Netherlands
            United States             France
             of America                13%
                 54%                                                                 China
                                    Switzerland                                       4%

                                                                                                         New Zealand

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Figure 7: Top higher education host destinations                                       Canada offers a society
                                                                                       that, in general, is tolerant
   United States                                                          1,078,822    and non-discriminatory:
                                                                                       79% said this was either
United Kingdom                                    501,045                              essential (34%) or very
                                                                                       important (45%); and
           China                               442,773

         Canada                           370,975                                      Canada’s reputation as a safe
                                                                                       country: 78% said this was
        Australia                       327,606                                        either essential (36%) or very
                                                                                       important (42%).
          France                        323,933

          Russia                     296,178
                                                                                      HOW DO
        Germany                    251,542                                            STUDENTS CHOOSE
                                                                                      THEIR INSTITUTION?
           Japan              171,122

                                                                                      When choosing an institution
           Spain          94,962
                                                                                      in Canada, international
Source: Project Atlas, 2017                                                           students again consider a
                                                                                      multitude of factors. According
Students choose their study                       financial considerations. In        to the survey, the top three
destination based on a variety                    the 2018 survey the top three       reasons that international
of factors including academic                     reasons that international          students choose to study at
reputation, flexibility and                       students chose to study in          their institution are as follows:
duration of programs, the                         Canada were:
international prestige of a                                                            The quality of education
qualification from a particular                     The reputation of the              at this institution: 84%
country/institution, admission                      education system in Canada:        said this was either
policies, permanent migration                       82% said this was either           essential (37%) or very
and employment opportunities,                       essential (36%) or very            important (47%);
cultural/linguistic links and                       important (46%);
                                                                                       The prestige of a degree/
                                                                                       diploma from this institution:
                                                                                       75% said this was either
 “The startup community and faculty members are incredibly kind,                       essential (32%) or very
  empathetic and supportive people... Professionals both inside and outside            important (43%); and
  the university whom I have had the pleasure to interact with continue
                                                                                       The availability of a particular
  to encourage me and help me where they can to pursue my goals and
                                                                                       program at this institution:
  improve every day and that means the world to me.”
                                                                                       68% said this was either
  Student from Trinidad and Tobago (M)                                                 essential (29%) or very
                                                                                       important (39%).

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ARE STUDENTS                            Student success                    the students indicated their
SATISFIED WITH                          Almost all students (95%)          intention to remain in Canada
THEIR DECISION TO                       stated that they are succeeding    in order to obtain further
STUDY IN CANADA?                        in meeting the academic            education. Students who
                                        demands of their program,          wished to remain in Canada
As shown in Figure 8, the               with 57% responding that           to study were most likely to
vast majority of international          they are having a lot of success   pursue further education in
students are satisfied with             and 38% responding that            a different institution (25%)
their educational experience in         they are having some success       while 21% indicated they
Canada. Approximately 93% of            (see Figure 9). Students were      would remain at their current
students stated that they are           considerably less likely to        institution (see Figure 11).
either satisfied (55%) or very          report the same degree of
satisfied (38%), and 96% of             success in becoming involved       Over two-thirds (70%) of
students would definitely (67%)         in campus activities, with         all students indicated their
or probably (29%) recommend             just 73% responding that           intention to find work in Canada
Canada as a study destination.          they are either having a lot       following their studies. Working
                                        of success (29%) or some
                                        success (44%) in this regard.

              Figure 8:                 WHAT DO                                         Figure 9:
   Satisfaction with educational        INTERNATIONAL                      Success meeting academic demands
       experience in Canada
                                        STUDENTS PLAN
                                        TO DO AFTER
                                        THEIR STUDIES?                                                   38%

                                        Future citizens                       57%

   55%                                  In the 2018 survey, 60%
                                        of all respondents indicated
                                        their intention to apply for
                                        permanent resident status               A lot of success   Some success

          Satisfied      Very satisfied
                                        in Canada in the future (see
                                        Figure 10). This is a marked                    Figure 10:
                                        jump from the 51% of               Do you plan to apply for permanent
                                        respondents who indicated              resident status in Canada?
                                        this intention in 2015.                                    10%
                             29%                                                                          44%

                                        Study and work plans
                                        In the years immediately
    67%                                 following their studies even                                      30%
                                        more students intend to
                                        remain in Canada at least on            A lot of success   Some success

          Definitely     Probably        a temporary basis to study
          recommend     recommend       and/or work. Almost half of                 Yes      No     Not sure

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Figure 11: Study plans following current program of study

  None, I do not have any plans to further my education                                                        43%

  Study for another degree/diploma at another Canadian educational institution                                 25%

  Study for another degree/diploma at this institution                                                         21%

  Study for another degree/diploma in a country that is neither Canada nor my home country                     7%

  Study for another degree/diploma in my home country                                                           4%

Figure 12: E
            mployment plans following current program of study

  Work permanently in Canada (become a permanent resident of Canada)                                           49%

  Work for up to three years in Canada, before returning home                                                  21%

  None, I do not have any work-related plans                                                                   13%

  Look for work in my home country                                                                             9%

  Look for work in another country that is neither Canada nor my home country                                  5%

  Return to previous job in my home country                                                                     3%

permanently in Canada was the                  while 14% indicated that they               students where 31% indicated
more likely option, with 49% of                were married and 4% identified              that they were married and
all respondents indicating this                as being in a common-law                    9% identified as being in a
intention, while an additional                 relationship (see Figure 13).               common-law relationship.
21% expressed their intention
to work on a temporary basis                   The number of married or                    Of those students who
in Canada for up to three years,               common-law students was                     indicated being married or
before returning to their home                 considerably higher for doctoral            having a common-law spouse,
country (see Figure 12).                                                                   64% indicated that their
                                                                                           spouse had accompanied them
Dependents                                                     Figure 13:                  to Canada for their studies
A new feature in this year’s                                Marital status of              and of those, 57% indicated
survey was an exploration of                             international students            satisfaction regarding the
the experience of international                                                            institutional support their
students who have dependents                                                               spouse had received to
(spouses and/or children)                                                                  settle and integrate into
who may or may not also                                                                    the community.
be in Canada during the
respondent’s studies.                                                                14%
                                                                                           A small number of
Marital status                                                                             students (7%) indicated
Of all students surveyed,                                     Single       Married         that they had children, with
82% of respondents indicated                                  Common-law
                                                                                           almost half of these (49%)
their marital status as single,                               relationship                 having one child, 33% having

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two children and 18% having        hottest housing markets of                   for students in the more
more than two.                     Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria,                difficult housing markets the
                                   Calgary and Hamilton/                        percentage of students citing
The number of doctoral             Burlington. In these cities                  problems grows to 55%, with
students with children was         46% of students indicated                    20% indicating that arranging
highest with 16% having at         feeling very concerned about                 accommodation for their studies
least one child.                   being able to cover the cost                 was a big problem.
                                   of their accommodation.
Two-thirds (67%) of students                                                    INDIGENOUS
with children were accompanied     Just under half (48%) of                     IDENTITY AND WAYS
by their children in Canada for    students indicated that                      OF KNOWING
the duration of their studies      arranging for a place to live
and, of those, 58% indicated       prior to arrival was problematic,            The CBIE International Student
satisfaction regarding the         with 15% indicating it was a big             Survey is a tool which can
institutional support their        problem, and 33% indicating                  indicate how international
children had received to           it was somewhat of a problem.                students experience themes at
settle and integrate into          When analysing the situation                 the fore of Canada’s education
the community.                                                                  sector. This year, at the
                                                                                request of CBIE members, the
Housing                                                                         survey collected data relating
Housing is one of the largest                  Figure 14:                       to Indigenous identity and
costs an international student          Types of accommodation                  ways of knowing in order
in Canada will incur. In many                        32%
                                                                                to deepen the education
housing markets during the past                                                 sector’s appreciation of the
few years both affordability and                                                intersectionality that many
accessibility have decreased,                                                   international students bring
calling for close monitoring of                                                 with their own Indigenous
the situation by stakeholders                                                   identities, and understand
across the international               32%
                                                                                how international students
education sector.                                                               experience Indigenous
                                                                                knowledge during their
While almost all (97%) of                                                       studies in Canada. CBIE
                                          Room, apartment, or house
respondents feel safe in their            that I am renting by myself           and its members are deeply
accommodation, 79% of                     Room, apartment, or house             grateful to experts from the
                                          that I am renting with people
respondents indicated feeling             who are not family members            Assembly of First Nations
either somewhat (42%) or very             University or college                 (AFN), the Métis Nation and
concerned (37%) about being                                                     Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK)
                                          Room, apartment, or house
able to cover the cost of their           that I am renting with                for lending their careful
accommodation.                            members of my family                  consideration and guidance
                                          Homestay (that is, living             in designing the questions
                                          with a host family)
That number climbs to                                                           relating to First Nations,
                                          In a condominium or house that I
84% for students studying at              (or a family member) purchased        Métis and Inuit knowledge
institutions in Canada’s five                Other                              and culture in Canada.

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                                                                             appreciation for Indigenous
                                                                             issues somewhat (41%)
 “The most positive aspect of my studies in Canada is that I had
                                                                             or very much (34%).
  the opportunity not only in the academic field but personally too,
 getting to know people from many different cultures.”                       When asked to describe what
 Engineering student from El Salvador (M)                                    they recalled learning about
                                                                             the knowledge and cultures
                                                                             of First Nations, Inuit and
                                                                             Métis peoples, respondents’
                                                                             comments ranged from deeply
Indigenous identity                     and cultures since arriving          troubling and negative, to
International students                  to study at their current            neutral and indifferent, to
were asked if they identify             Canadian institution. Just           constructive and positive. The
as Indigenous to their home             under half (46%) responded           following are curated comments
country. In the absence                 that they had learned about          demonstrating some promising
of a clear and universal                Indigenous history and               practices at institutions and
definition of the term, many            cultures. Respondents studying       testimonials about their impact:
respondents (19%) indicated             at a university were slightly
that they didn’t understand             more likely (48%) to indicate        “I have learned about the
the question. An additional             that they had learned about            people whose land my
17% indicated that they were            Indigenous ways of knowing,            university resides on and
unsure, while 52% definitively          cultures and history than their        how to mend the gap of
answered ‘no’ and 12% did               peers at the polytechnic and           knowledge.” International
identify as Indigenous to               college level (36%).                   student pursuing studies on
their home country.                                                            the traditional and unceded
                                        Just over half of respondents          territory of the Abenaki
Of those respondents who                who had learned about                  people and the Wabenaki
identified as Indigenous to their       Indigenous ways of knowing and         confederacy (M)
home country, 46% (just under           cultures indicated that this took
800 respondents) were able              place in the classroom (54%),        “... There have been several
to articulate the Indigenous            followed by the media and              events where our university
group or groups that they               fellow students (both 45%),            has invited the Chief and
identify with.                          campus events (36%) and local          several other people from
                                        Indigenous organizations               the Mi’kmaq tribe of First
International student                   (on campus or in the                   Nations. Through these
experience with                         community, 27%).                       events I learnt the history
Indigenous identity                                                            of Mi’kmaq and how they
and ways of knowing                     Among respondents who had              were the first civilization in
International students were             learned about First Nations,           Nova Scotia. Our university
asked if they had learned about         Inuit and Métis ways of knowing        has a tradition of celebrating
Indigenous (First Nations,              and identity, 75% indicated that       Mi’kmaq festivals and
Inuit and Métis) knowledge              this learning had increased their      also, the traditional dance,

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 before several big university
 events.” International
                                       “The most positive part has been the student-centric, enquiry based
 student pursuing studies on
                                       approach to education in my institution. The instructors listen to
 the ancestral and unceded
 territory of the Mi’kmaq              opinions from all students and provide a safe space for everyone
 People (F)                            to speak up.”
                                       Education student from India (F)
“We organized a workshop
  on Mi’kmaq language. Prior
  to that, we talked about
  Indigenous Knowledge in
  several different courses in        the things I heard from my              and 75% indicated that
  the Bachelor of Education.”         friends wasn’t true at all.”            the opportunity to work in
  International student pursuing      International student pursuing          Canada following their studies
  studies on the ancestral and        studies on the traditional              was essential (42%) or very
  unceded territory of the            unceded territory of the W last         important (33%) in their
                                                                  e       e
  Mi’kmaq People (F)                  kwiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq           calculation to choose Canada
                                      Peoples (M)                             as a study destination.
“Many classes have focused
  on the colonization of the        “I’ve learned about how first            As we saw earlier in this
  country and its negative            nations peoples managed                 chapter, 21% of survey
  effects on Indigenous               landscapes and ecosystems               respondents intend to work
  peoples. During my second           prior to colonization.”                 for up to three years in Canada
  year, an office run by              International student pursuing          before returning home, while
  First Nations women was             natural sciences studies on the         almost half intend to work
  established as a means to           unceded territory of the Coast          permanently in Canada and
  better educate the campus in        Salish peoples (M)                      become a permanent resident.
  its entirety. Additionally, the
  past 2 years have been ‘year      EMPLOYMENT                                Growing and supporting
  of Indigenous knowing’                                                      employability
  and a ‘year of Indigenous         For the majority of                       Students responded strongly
  study.’’ International student    international post-secondary              that their Canadian education
 pursuing studies on the            students in Canada the                    had been beneficial for preparing
 traditional unceded territory of   opportunity to work during                them for employment in Canada
 the W last kwiyik (Maliseet)       and after their studies is a key          with 87% saying it has been
       e   e
 and Mi’kmaq Peoples (M)            driver for deciding to study              somewhat (33%) or very (54%)
                                    in Canada. Almost two-thirds              beneficial.
“O ne day an Indigenous girl       of respondents indicated
  came to talk at a campus          that the opportunity to work              Just over half (54%) of
  event about her culture and       while studying in Canada                  respondents indicated that
  experiences and I learned a       was either essential (29%)                they had accessed career
  lot, I realized that most of      or very important (33%)                   services at their institution.

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Figure 15: Challenges finding employment

 I don’t have enough work experience                                                                        52%

 I have not found appropriate jobs to apply to                                                              37%

 I have no time to work                                                                                     33%

 I struggle to describe my skills and abilities                                                             29%

 Canadian employers don’t understand that I can legally work in Canada                                      13%

Of those who had made use of                                                          “Canadian employers are
such services, 19% were very                                                            disregarding international
                                                   “Canada is welcoming, friendly,
satisfied and 60% indicated                                                             work experience. They want
they were satisfied with the                        and cheerful and that makes         references and Canadian
support they received.                              me feel good in spite of being      work experience.” (M)
                                                    thousands of miles away
Employment experience                               from home.”
                                                                                      “One challenge is the
during studies                                                                          difference of how to present
                                                   Business student from India (F)
We asked students who                                                                   my Resume, CV, Cover letter
indicated that working during                                                           and the difference of work
studies was important to them                                                           culture between my country
if they had success in finding                                                          and Canada.” (F)
and maintaining employment.                       finding appropriate jobs to apply
Just under half (43%) of this                     to (37%), and having no time to     “Upon receiving my study
group were employed at the                        work (33%) (see Figure 15).           permit Immigration
time of the survey. When asked                                                          representatives stated that
about the top three financial                     In addition to the challenges         I am prohibited from work
supports that are helping                         above many students                   with no reason.” (F)
respondents to pay for their                      offered their perspectives
education in Canada, 16% of                       about different and often           “Networking takes A LOT of
all students surveyed indicated                   compounding challenges                time (and I don’t have this
that on-campus work income                        with regard to working as an          time during my studies)
was a top source.                                 international student during          and we need to network
                                                  their studies. Some of these          a lot before having an
Of those who were not working,                    challenges included a sense           opportunity.” (M)
56% indicated that they were                      of employer discrimination
having difficulty finding work.                   against international work          CONCLUSION NOTES
When asked about the challenges                   experience, cultural differences,
in finding work, this group of                    eligibility to work in Canada       As Canada’s international
respondents indicated their top                   and the challenge of investing      student population continues
challenges as: not having enough                  scarce time and energy              to grow and institutions
work experience (52%), not                        into networking:                    prioritize internationalization,

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data—quantitative                                stakeholders to enhance this                       perspective and growing
and qualitative—become                           experience and, in so doing,                       student sample over these
increasingly important.                          realize their own objectives.                      five iterations, CBIE will
                                                                                                    delve into major trends
CBIE provides analysis and                       This year marked the                               over time and conduct more
mobilizes the International                      fifth iteration of the CBIE                        detailed analyses in order
Student Survey data in order                     International Student                              to increase the capacity of
to grow understanding of                         Survey and a major                                 the international education
the international student                        increase in institutional                          sector to make informed
experience and to support                        participation and student                          decisions and develop
institutions, organizations,                     response. Through the                              even stronger policies
governments and other                            expanding longitudinal                             and programs.

Canadian Bureau for International Education
ISBN: 978-1-894129-99-2                          Canadian Bureau for International Education        Visit the CBIE research library
ISSN: 2368-3333                                  220 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1550      
Key title: CBIE research in brief                Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5Z9
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The views expressed in this                      613-237-4820                                       and data analysis services.
paper are those of the authors.        
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© 2017 CBIE


1 Assiniboine Community College, Bishop’s University, Bow Valley College, Camosun College, Collège communautaire de Nouveau Brunswick,
  College of New Caledonia, Concordia University, Fanshawe College, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, King’s at Western University,
  Langara College, LaSalle College, Laurentian University, Loyalist College, MacEwan University, McGill University, McMaster University,
  Memorial University of Newfoundland, Mount Allison University, Mount Saint Vincent University, New Brunswick Community College, Niagara
  College, Nipissing University, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Royal Roads University, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Simon Fraser
  University, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, St. Thomas University, Thompson Rivers University, Université de Moncton, Université
  de Montréal, Université de Saint-Boniface, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Université Laval, University of Alberta, University of New
  Brunswick, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Ottawa, University of Prince Edward Island, University of Regina,
  University of Saskatchewan, University of Victoria, Vancouver Community College, Vancouver Island University, Western University

2 Participating institutions may access raw data, custom datasets and comparative analysis.
  For more information contact

3 This sample represents approximately 3.8% of all post-secondary international students in Canada according to 2017 data
  reported by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (370,975 study permit holders at the post-secondary level).

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