As U.S. and British legislators tighten the screws on travel and visa rules, they might be squeezing out international researchers and students. Canadian universities, meanwhile, are seeing surging interest from both groups.
“Leading researchers from the U.S. and U.K. have been making inquiries of Canadian universities, with the intent of possibly relocating,” said Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, which advocates for Canadian universities at the federal level. Among the scholars are “Nobel-calibre people,” he added.
The group’s online listing of academic jobs has seen the number of queries from the U.S. double since the U.S. presidential election.
Interest from U.K.-based researchers has also spiked, after the country voted last summer to leave the European Union, which is a major source of funding for British academic research.
U.K. universities had been receiving around £1.2 billion ($2 billion) a year in EU research funding, according Times Higher Education. With Brexit, though, that money is now in limbo.
Tougher travel and immigration rules are also having an impact on student enrollment.
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau renewed his opposition to the travel ban instituted in the U.S. by President Donald, saying diversity is a key identity of Canada.
Applications to Canadian universities from American students have been surging since U.S. president Donald Trump clinched his electoral victory in November:
- At the University of Toronto, U.S. undergraduate applications are up 80 per cent compared to last year, with 1,127 American applicants as of mid-January of 2017, compared to 627 at the same time last year. The surge reflects “Canada’s message that we’re open to diversity,” as well the school’s recruitment efforts in the U.S. and its top placement in international rankings, said Ted Sargent, U of T’s vice-president, international.
- McMaster University has seen applications from U.S. high schools soar by 34 per cent, even without doing any recruiting south of the border.
- McGill University’s U.S. applicants are up 21 per cent year-over-year, compared to a 13 per cent increase between 2015 and 2016.
- And the University of British Columbia has so far received around 2,600 applications from the U.S., an 18 per cent jump.
“Those are very large numbers. It’s growing and it continues,” said Davidson.
Immigration curbs in the U.S. and U.K. are also expected to increase the appeal of Canadian campuses for students from countries like Mexico and India, he added.
“Students from Mexico who may have been planning to go to study in the U.S. may now no longer feel welcome,” he noted.
WATCH: aboard Air Force One on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump is considering a 20 per cent tax on imports from Mexico to pay for the proposed border wall.
Similarly, Indian students who would normally be applying to U.S. and British institutions may now have second thoughts about both.
Though Trump’s Jan. 26 executive order limiting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries did not single out India, it helped “change the climate” in the U.S., said Davidson.
Even more concerning to Indian applicants may be moves by both the White House and U.S. lawmakers to impose new caps on the U.S. H1B visa program, which has long been a major source of work permits for Indian tech companies.
WATCH: Hundreds of Canadians protested President Trump’s travel ban in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto.
At U of T, undergraduate applications from India rose 40 per cent since last year, from 443 to 621.
Indian applicants are known to have a strong preference for schools where they stand higher chances of finding quality employment after graduation, said U of T’s Sargent. Canada’s clear path to immigration and permanent residence for foreign students certainly helps in that regard, he added.
Growing inflows of students from abroad are broadly regarded as a boon for Canada’s economy.
A recent study commissioned by Global Affairs Canada estimated their contribution at $11.4 billion in 2014, roughly equivalent to 2.2 per cent of Canada’s total goods exports for the year.