Report: The largest proportion of students considering to study English abroad in 2021 are opting for Canada

People’s aspiration to learn or improve their foreign language ability by studying in Canada remains strong despite the current restrictions, as showed by the State of the Language Education Sector in Canada, a recent report commissioned by Languages Canada for its member programs.

Jun 24, 2021 BONARD team

The report, administered by BONARD, a market research and advisory firm, has brought together newly-gathered intelligence on the impact of Covid-19 on the language education sector in Canada as well as insights into the current market conditions surveying more than 300 Canadian language programs as well as education agencies from 31 countries around the globe.

Canada remains well-positioned for post-pandemic growth

Over the past years, Canada has systematically built its profile as a high quality and welcoming study destination, which has resulted in a rapid increase in international student numbers.

The country is the 4th most popular destination in the world for English language travel. In 2019, it welcomed 155,383 English language students (12% of all internationally mobile English language students) and had a 17% market share of student weeks.

It is also an important destination for students of the French language. In 2018 (the latest available reference year for the global French language travel market), Canada welcomed 10,898 French language learners, representing a 10% share of the global market and making it the 2nd most popular destination for French language students after France.

The research showed that Canada's language education sector is well-positioned for future growth once international travel fully resumes, due to three factors:

  • the perception of Canada as safe and international student-friendly destination;

  • uncertainty around border closures in other destinations, such as Australia and New Zealand;

  • Canada's perceived handling of the pandemic.

An incremental market recovery expected

The global English and French language travel market was severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and, while the full scale of the devastation is yet to be measured, indications from multiple study destinations already point to a significant decrease over 2019.

However, the research shows that the sector will witness an incremental recovery rather than a sudden return to pre-pandemic student numbers. In Q2 2021, Canadian programs estimated operating at 29% of their respective 2019 student volumes. The situation is anticipated to slightly improve quarter-to-quarter, reaching 46% in Q1 2022.

Agencies forecast growing bookings from 2021/22

Compared to 2019, agencies forecast 31% of bookings to Canadian institutions in 2021 and 55% of bookings in 2022. While agencies in Latin America anticipated a smaller recovery in 2021 than agencies elsewhere, they also believed their region would have recovered to a greater extent by 2022 than any other region.

Of students who are considering studying English abroad in 2021, the largest proportion are opting for Canada. Agencies noted it was the primary choice of 31% of their customers. The next most popular destinations identified were the UK (20%) and the USA (14%). For students considering French language studies, Canada maintains its spot as the 2nd most popular destination – 32% of students would choose Canada to learn French.

Better entry conditions key factor for market recovery

When Canadian programs were asked to rate the challenges they currently face, a drop in demand to study in Canada due to the existing entry conditions was ranked highest (79%), followed by issues with visa application processing (55%).

Both agencies and programs consider better entry conditions, such as lifting the compulsory 72-hour hotel quarantine, as the most important factor to facilitate market recovery. On average, programs expected to see 56% fewer students due this particular measure alone.

Future perspectives to overcome the crisis  

Without the existing federal government wage and rent subsidy programs, 54% of programs will cease their operations within 6 months.

However, programs reported that reducing the cost of entry and quarantine would constitute a significant boost in terms of their survival: 78% of the respondents reported that such a reduction would have a highly positive impact on their business. Under this scenario, 40% believe they would increase their student recruitment and 30% that they would be able to sustain operation of their business over the pandemic period.

Sixty percent of programs responded that inclusion of international students in Canada's vaccination program would be viewed favorably by prospective students, with 27% of them reporting that it would improve the outcome of their international marketing and recruitment activities.

Language education represents an integral part of the country's international education system and an important value proposition to prospective students. Maintaining Canada's image as a safe study destination is what 31% of survey respondents see as the key measure in paving the way for recovery.

Disclaimer: Having all the interviews been carried out in March, up to the present moment, there have been developments as far as the pandemic handling and governmental subsidies are concerned.  Upon reading the article below, we advise viewers to check Languages Canada’s website ( for sector development updates.

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