Trump’s biggest fans? Canadian universities

Canadian universities are seeing a surge in applications from overseas students, with the country’s liberal, migrant-friendly image appearing to be an important attraction.

Students who might once have headed for the United States now seem to be reconsidering and seeing Canada as a North American alternative.

The University of Toronto, one of Canada’s top-ranked universities, has seen interest rising sharply, including a 57% increase in applications from India.

This interest has converted into acceptances, says the university – with an overall 20% increase in overseas students accepting places for the autumn.

Wilfrid Laurier University says it has had a 32% increase in overseas students and McMaster University has seen an annual rise of 33%.

This is a valuable market, with overseas students bringing in tuition fees and local spending power. A study last week suggested that overseas students were worth $36bn (£28bn) per year to the US economy.

Tolerant image

But Canadian universities are seizing an opportunity from the Trump administration in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK to present themselves as a more outward-looking alternative.

There are more than 350,000 overseas students already in Canada, with research from the Canadian Bureau for International Education suggesting that the image of a “tolerant and non-discriminatory society” is a major attraction.

University of TorontoThe University of Toronto has promoted a more inclusive image

Perception is a powerful force in this market and Canadian universities are contrasting their warmer welcome to international students with the tough messages on immigration being transmitted by the Trump administration.

The University of Montreal has set up its own travel fund for its international students who would once have attended conferences in the US, but now face difficulties getting into the country.

An Iranian student who says he spent two hours being “interrogated” at a US airport was among those who would be funded to go to conferences elsewhere.

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