For many, finding a pathway to work and study in Canada is the first step towards realising a dream. With its lush landscape, host of top universities and an open, well-regulated immigration system, it’s no wonder that students from all over the world are flocking to the country. Statistics support this statement, too: in May, a survey of agents found that Canada was the “most attractive study destination”, mostly boosted by the government’s strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While students are naturally attracted to larger, more well-known cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, the country’s Atlantic provinces are quickly becoming the first choice for those looking to work and study in Canada. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick are among some of the provinces international students are considering.
Canada offers some of the most lenient immigration policies in the world, attracting students from all over. Source: Daniel Slim/AFP
A prominent factor influencing this move is its affordability compared to Canada’s more densely-populated cities. Universities in Canada set their own tuition fees according to a number of factors, including international or home student status and the nature of the programme. This means that while attending a world-class university remains a draw, many students end up turning down their top university choices for cost-related reasons. Major cities in Canada such as Toronto and Vancouver are no exception.
As a contrast, the Atlantic provinces offer a much lower cost of living and are thus much friendlier to a student’s wallet. It was found that an undergraduate student in Toronto would spend approximately 144,100 Canadian dollars (approximately US$112,128) more on tuition and rental costs over a four-year period than a student in St. John’s.
Ontario remains the most sought-after destination to work and study in Canada. It’s home to highly populated cities like Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton — who in turn are where some of the best universities in the country, such as Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. Ontario also offers many opportunities for students to remain in Canada for work after their studies.
Smaller cities in Atlantic Canada are known for their affordability and livability. Source: Cole Burston/AFP
Many of Canada’s smaller cities are similarly offering routes into permanent residency for international graduates through the Provincial Nominee Programme (PNP), which allows provinces to tailor their immigration according to local needs. While cities like Toronto and Vancouver have their own PNP programmes, Atlantic Canada is actively seeking out highly educated, skilled graduates to make up for their ageing population.
The Atlantic Pilot Program (AIPP), a government-funded pathway programme, is designed to help students secure employment after graduation. The programme is set to close in December 2021, but will be replaced by a new programme for international graduates to gain permanent residency status.
This is clearly a popular move. In 2021, some 12,695 international graduates gained permanent residency status in Canada, the highest annual total in Canadian history.
Outside of that, Atlantic Canada is a major appeal due to its growing economy. Nova Scotia, for example, is a rapidly developing tech sector that’s home to a number of up-and-coming tech companies. New Brunswick, known for its wide expanse of healthy forests, is similarly attracting a host of businesses in key sectors across agritech, energy innovation, and digital technology.
Atlantic Canada is known for its lush forests and beautiful landscape. Source: Timothy A. Clary/AFP
That’s not accounting for Atlantic Canada’s liveability. Students are surrounded by beautiful landscapes, ocean views and overall natural beauty. Many of the universities in these provinces have campuses that stretch out across miles, and hidden trails, ski retreats and mountain views are not uncommon. The smaller scale of cities in Atlantic Canada naturally account for shorter commute times, as well, allowing students more opportunities to enjoy the vast environment afforded to them outside of classes.
Some well-known universities in Atlantic Canada include Dalhousie University, which places among the top 300 institutions in the world and top 20 in Canada. Saint Mary’s University and the University of New Brunswick are highly regarded universities in the region, as well.