Study-abroad platforms advise students to skip Canada, explore UK, US options – Moneycontrol

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Amid the scramble for information on the Canada situation from students, Indian higher education platforms are encouraging them to explore universities in the UK and the US as alternatives. As diplomatic tensions with Canada escalate, there is uncertainty over how the latter will respond to India’s suspension of visa services to Canadian nationals.
The North American country, which is among the top higher education destinations for Indian students, has now moved down in the list, as per suggestions by counsellors at these companies.
The Indian government suspended visa services for Canadian nationals indefinitely with effect from September 21, 2023. The ambiguity around a potential reciprocal action by the Canadian government has left students, who are either planning to study in Canada, in the midst of their application process, or already enrolled, in a state of worry and panic.
Immediate impact
“The first and second days were very challenging. Last night (September 21), we left the office at about 1 am. There was massive panic coming through,” Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder and CEO, Leverage Edu told Moneycontrol.
Queries from students who have settled in Canada or have obtained their visa and are soon to travel to the country have been pouring in after the news broke. According to him, students are now concerned that if the issue snowballs into something bigger – will Indian students remain safe in Canada?
Also read: Indian Consulates facing security concerns in Canada, will review visa operations regularly: Govt
He added that the queries have been somewhat under control after the Canadian government promised to ensure safety of all communities in the country and universities have come on record to address such concerns.
The study abroad soonicorn, a company soon to be valued at a billion dollars, set up a helpline number where all queries on the Canada-India row are directed. “About 250-300 people have called us in the last 14 to 16 hours and that is when it has considerably eased off given positive communication from in the Canadian government,” said Chaturvedi.
However, he believes the recent diplomatic crossfire between the two countries ought to bring down demand for Canada as a top study destination for many moving abroad for higher studies at least this year.
“Students who have applied for Canadian visas will wait for the results. The fall intake is almost complete, so those with visas will likely proceed. However, there may be uncertainties for the upcoming spring intake in January. We’ll have to wait and see how the situation unfolds and whether visa processing remains efficient,” said Ankur Dhawan, President of upGrad Abroad.
He added that this fall in demand from applicants is also apparent in the recent student queries. “We used to get a lot of inquiries about Canada. But for the last 3-4 days Canadian inquiry has dropped. People who were planning for Canada, are now looking for other destinations,” said Dhawan.
Also read: Could the escalating India-Canada relations derail expansion plans of airlines?
Indian students in Canada
Moneycontrol earlier reported how the escalating diplomatic tensions between India and Canada, and its impact on travel plans and visa application is worrying the Indian tourism industry.
India is a key market for Canada as the latter is highly popular among Indian students planning to study abroad, gaining significant traction in recent years.
To be sure, about 2,26,450 Indian students made their way into Canada for higher education in 2022, according to data released by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
In fact, Gaurav Batra, CEO and Founder of the Infinite Group, a company providing study abroad solutions, previously told Moneycontrol that Canada, with 25 percent of its economy relying on contributions from international students, must prioritise reducing uncertainty concerning travel and visas.
Till that happens, counsellors and universities recommend students wait the current intake season out so there is more clarity on what’s next.
What students can do
“We have even spoken to a bunch of university partners there. They have said that nothing will get impacted but there could be visa delays and hence we would recommend people who are applying in the summer intake, to rather apply for the fall intake,” said Chaturvedi.
In case of those who want to continue to apply for the same intake season, Chaturvedi suggested deferring their application towards some other destination which is friendlier right now.
Leverage Edu also released an advisory on September 21 that read “…as effective immediately, we are stopping all new applications to Canada until there is more clarity. We are asking our students to redirect plans towards the US or UK if possible.”
upGrad Abroad’s Dhawan suggested that with such recent events, the trend of exploring other countries will likely intensify this season. “Students are also looking at European economies like Germany, France, Finland, and even Greece and Italy. These countries offer similar permanent residency benefits,” he added.
Canada-focused players in rough waters
Meanwhile, some firms that made the majority of revenues from their Canada applicants stare at an uncertain future. “Some players exclusively focus on Canada and might struggle with visa approvals and convincing parents to send their kids there. There are players who operate exclusively in Canada, some are based in regions like Punjab and Haryana, specialising in the Canadian market and some operate in Canada and also establish a presence in Punjab and Haryana to recruit students,” said a top executive of a higher education platform, requesting anonymity.
Companies like Chandigarh-headquartered Canam Consultants, and Canada-based ApplyBoard among others have a larger chunk of their revenues coming from their Canada-India operations and may feel more heat in the coming months, they added.
Both Canam Consultants and ApplyBoard did not respond to Moneycontrol’s queries on impact on its operations, at the time of publishing this story.
Challenges lie in quick switch
While it is a reason to worry, it is also unlikely that the appeal for Canada will wear off so quickly with its favourable permanent residency policies and its need for immigrants to run the economy. It also becomes a top choice because of the convenience in language as English is used primarily in Canada. In European countries, on the other hand, language proficiency may be required.
“If somebody is looking at working in that destination country where they are heading to study for a couple of years, it’s still difficult to give up Canada as an option,” Chaturvedi said.
Similarly, for those who already had started applying to colleges in Canada, switching might turn out to be costlier due to the high application fees. “In the UK if you apply to higher education institutions, you don’t have to provide an application fee. In Canada for every college that you apply to, you have to pay a slightly hefty application fee as well. So people who had applied for the spring intake, they had to pay Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh in the application fees, if they applied to about five to six schools,” Chaturvedi said.
Also read: India issues warning to expats in Canada after murder accusation
“For them it’s very difficult to kind of redirect their aspirations to a UK or a US or some other country because they have already invested a good chunk of their funds towards their Canada plans,” he added.
Between Canada’s appeal to Indian students and unstable diplomatic ties between the two countries, lie the future of many young aspirants. While it is yet to be seen how the Canada-India row unfolds, study-abroad players suggest students take a wait-and-watch approach, and follow government advisories before making a move to Canada for their higher education plans this year.

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