A courted clientele –

A courted clientele | –

For years, English-speaking universities have been the big winners in the battle among universities to recruit international students. But that is changing.

Posted at 5:00 am.


The proportion of foreign students enrolled in Quebec’s English-speaking universities, which had been rising steadily to reach a peak of 44.9% in fall 2020, has since fallen to 37.9% in fall 2022, La Presse found based on compiled data through the Interuniversity Cooperation Office (BCI).

A courted clientele –

In total, there were 54,321 international students in fall 2022, including 20,598 at the three English-speaking universities and 33,723 at the 16 French-speaking institutions.

The turnaround can be explained, firstly, by the fact that French-speaking universities have made efforts to attract more foreign students by organizing international recruitment campaigns with the participation of the Quebec government, which have been successful.

Last year, the number of foreign students at French-speaking universities rose by 14%, compared to 4% at English-speaking ones.

These increases on the French-speaking side are reinforced by the fact that English-speaking institutions, which already have a high proportion of foreign students, are no longer seeking to increase their numbers as much. This is particularly true for McGill, the university that accepts the largest number of students in Quebec, but does not want to increase its proportion of foreign students, currently 29%.

At French-speaking universities

At the University of Montreal (UdeM), international students make up 16% of the student body. Of the total 46,000 students there are more than 7,000.

“More than half come from France,” explains Rector Daniel Jutras.

“The other important basins are the countries of the Maghreb and French-speaking Africa,” he adds. There are still problems. “Not Quebec problems, but federal immigration problems with delays in obtaining permits that limit our ability to convert offers of admission into registrations,” he explains, pointing to the fact that African students have greater difficulty obtaining study permits than those in other regions of the world, particularly in Quebec.

At HEC Montréal, which is affiliated with the UdeM, the proportion of international students is also 16%. At Polytechnique Montréal, which also belongs to UdeM, it rises to 28%. UdeM, HEC and Polytechnique together have 18% foreign students.

The University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), on the other hand, has 13% of students from other countries. Of the 35,000 people, almost 5,000 come from outside Canada.

“This number has been growing for several years,” spokeswoman Caroline Tessier said via email. “We are seeing an increase of more than 15% in international students at UQAM between 2019 and 2022. Over just over 10 years, this increase is even more impressive: there were 2,457 international students in 2010, almost twice as many in 2022.”

Across the entire Université du Québec (UQ) network, they are particularly numerous at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) and at the École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS), where almost one in three students (31%) comes from abroad.

The National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS), a small university at UQ dedicated to research and training of doctoral students, has the highest proportion, with 63% international students.

At Laval University the proportion of foreigners is 12%.

This proportion is 8% at the University of Sherbrooke, which has 2,000 international students out of a population of 25,000 students.

At English-speaking universities

McGill welcomes the largest number of international students among English-speaking institutions: nearly 11,000 of 36,560 students, or 29% of its clientele. The three main countries of origin are China, the United States and France. Almost half of McGill students are residents of Quebec and 23% come from other provinces.

It is part of the university’s DNA to offer its students a multicultural experience.

Fabrice Labeau, first associate associate principal at McGill

McGill wants to maintain a proportion of international students between 25% and 30%, Mr. Labeau says. “We don’t want to go beyond that because we are a university in Quebec and we want to maintain that quality,” he explains. Our budgets are created on this basis. »

Concordia also has many foreign students: 9,300 out of 39,000 students, or 24% of the student body. The most represented countries are India, Iran, France, China and the United States. “In general, there is a higher proportion of international students at the graduate level,” says spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci via email.

At Bishop’s, a small university of 3,000 students in Estrie, international students make up 22% of the student body.

France is the third country of origin for international students at Quebec’s three English-speaking universities.

Learn more

  • 17.4% Percentage of international students at universities in Quebec, Fall 2022

    Source: Interuniversity Cooperation Office

    20% increase in international students enrolled in a master’s degree program in fall 2022 compared to the previous year

    Source: Interuniversity Cooperation Office