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International students are an important, growing, part of the Nova Scotia student body. Their enrolment increased by 148% between 2000-01 and 2010-11 (MPHEC, 2012a). There were 6287 full-time visa students at Nova Scotia universities in 2012-13 (AAU, 2012), amounting to 13.8% of total enrolment and 16.5% of full-time enrolment, as well as 140% of full-time enrolment growth in 2012-13, meaning the student body would be shrinking without these students. That the number of visa students in 2012-13 is also equal to 53% of the total number of Nova Scotia’s external migrants recorded in the last census (StatsCan, 2009) indicates the international students’ importance for immigration.

The OECD (2009) anticipates that the number of international students globally should increase from 3.7 million to 6.4 million by 2025. The Federal Government has set a goal of doubling international student enrolment in Canada by 2022 (DFAIT, 2012). Canada is currently the fourth most popular English-speaking destination (OECD, 2011).

The universities with the highest international enrolment in Nova Scotia are Saint Mary’s (SMU) and Cape Breton University (CBU) (AAU, 2012). Currently, international students account for 31% of SMU’s full-time students. CBU’s 900 international students represent 29% of full-time enrolment, and their numbers have doubled in only two years.

International undergraduates more often enrol in commerce and administration programs (27% of these programs’ total 2010-11 enrolment), while international graduate students more often study engineering and applied science (44% of enrolment), or mathematics and physical sciences (37% of enrolment) (MPHEC, 2012a).

Nova Scotia’s international students come from around the world. The five most common countries of origin are China, Saudi Arabia, the United States, India and Bermuda. 58% of international students in 2010-11 were male (MPHEC, 2012a).

International students pay differential tuition fees that are significantly higher than domestic students and can be increased at universities’ discretion (MPHEC, 2012b). This is meant to cover government’s part in funding post-secondary, since international students have not previously contributed tax revenues. Relative to Nova Scotia students, the 2012-13 CBU differential is $7,403 for undergraduates, while the differential is $7323 at SMU. For graduate students at Dal, the 2012-13 differential is $9245.

International students also must purchase expensive health insurance, before becoming eligible for MSI coverage after 13 months in the province without a 31-consecutive-day absence. At SMU and the Atlantic School of Theology, this costs $766.50 per year for an individual and $2299.50 for a student with dependents.

The total economic impact of international students in Nova Scotia is an estimated $231 million per year, or three times the public’s investment in these students (DUSPA, 2009).


AAU (2012):

DFAIT (2012):

DUSPA (2009):

MPHEC (2012):

OECD (2011):

OECD (2009):

StatsCan (2009):,97154&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2006&THEME=70&VID=0&VNAMEE=&VNAMEF=#FN21