The gross number of international post-secondary students transitioning to permanent residency has been increasing since 2015 but fell significantly in 2020 due to the global pandemic. In 2019, 12.8% of foreign students chose to stay in Nova Scotia post-graduation, but by 2020 this share had fallen to 7.1%. Even with a rapid increase in the number of international students choosing to study in Nova Scotia, the overall retention rate has risen considerably in recent years. The retention rate increased from a low of 3.4% in 2015 to a high of 12.9% in 2018, reaching and exceeding the target set out in the OneNS Report. While these are impressive numbers historically, the sudden drop in 2020 is concerning. We will need to recover to the level of success we have seen in recent years if we are to achieve our target in 2024.
It should be noted that the numerator (transitions) is based on calendar 2020 data and so is substantially impacted by the pandemic. The denominator (enrolments) is based on 2019-20 academic year data and so would be largely driven by figures from the fall of 2019, before the pandemic hit.
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What This Means
A growing number of potential economic migrants are being attracted to study at Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions. More of them are also choosing to stay and build a life here. Despite the temporary disruption of a global pandemic, the number of students choosing Nova Scotia remains above historic norms. This is an opportunity to help combat the province’s demographic and economic challenges. As the number of enrolments rise, retention efforts can expand to accommodate the larger volume of potential economic migrants.